Hybrids — An Abbreviated History
Unique to The Deathscape Mythos are “hybrids” (Felis sylvestrus x Homo sapiens, or simply, Felis x sapiens), individuals who have both feline and human traits. They have physiological differences from both humans and domestic cats: for instance, despite maintaining a plantigrade bipedal stance and having a fully human-like posture, they are slightly heavier compared to a human of equal height. They also have a very high-rate of infertility. They are far more human than feline–on the biochemical, genetic, and medical front–but currently only a handful of countries allow them citizenship. However, most countries do recognize them as having human rights and treat them accordingly, although this is not universal.
The events that led to the creation of hybrids were a combination of luck, timing and ingenuity that differed markedly from from our history. It started with extensive studies on X-Ray Crystallography during the late 1800’s, which was turned toward the emerging field created by Gregor Mendel following his observations on the pea plant. As a result, DNA was discovered several decades earlier, leaving scientists with a different set of ethics with which to conduct their experiments under. This quickly led to a number of unique developments that completely changed the field of genetics; in Deathscape, the field is extremely different than it is in our world, although not necessarily more advanced.
By 1922, the field had progressed so rapidly that the human genome was already well on its way to being mapped. Inspired by this, lab researcher Dominick Pierce began to use extracted genetic material from human umbilical cords to experiment on altering the genome of the domestic cat. He progressed from adding genes to actually modifying select segments of DNA to change how the genes interacted with their new host, as well altering and creating pathways to force desired traits. Due to a lack of modern technology, his experiments were basically performed via trial and error; through luck and foresight however, he was not only able to produce the results he wanted, but to develop his technique further.
Hoping to both advance this technique and do long-term studies on gene manipulation, Pierce turned to a steady blood supply left over from World War I blood banks; by 1928, he was producing outstanding results that had caught the public’s eye. This led to a massive government grant and access to more recent blood banks for material. The onset of the Great Depression allowed him to use some of that grant to gather more materials–the abundance of abandoned animals and the fact that individuals were more than willing to sell blood for a small sum of cash allowed him to throw caution to the wind. He continued to use cats simply because they were more abundant than other animals–although this decision was also influenced by their large brain pans and distinctly inhuman behavior, the latter of which served as an excellent control. As other researchers began repeating his experiments, progress began to accumulate at an exponential rate, to the point that researchers were no longer limited to altering specific behaviors or a single trait a time, allowing for more and more complex manipulation.
Then, in 1937, the first subject recognizable as a hybrid was born.
By 1953, more than 4,000 young and adolescent hybrids existed in labs throughout the United States. However, the events of World War II had drastically changed public attitudes on these types of experiments, and soon enough public outcry demanded that these hybrids be released. When the government attempted to pass a resolution barring additional testing, a coalition of geneticists sued on the grounds that hybrids were private property exempt from government regulation; the case reached the United States Supreme Court, who declared that because hybrids had been altered exclusively with human genetic material with the purpose of making them more human, they could no longer be considered animals in the traditional sense. Although the court stopped short of declaring them persons or giving them citizenship, they did acknowledge that a large number of uneducated, they did order the release of all existing specimens. In an attempt to make transition easier–and to lessen the burden on the states–they ordered the release of any and all records regarding the creation of all hybrids–including the identity of their genetic donors–to the hybrids themselves, in hope that some of them may find family support. While this didn’t have much success–most families were ashamed of having a hybrid as a relative–it did help greatly in integrating them into society. While hybrids still faced extreme difficulties adjusting to normal life, over the course of the next few years they found themselves slowly finding a niche in a society that didn’t even know if they were human enough to be considered persons.
As the Civil Rights Movement began to gain new steam, the issue began to make its way into the the battle for racial equality. The first major victory involved a April 14, 1958 lawsuit filed with the 5th District Federal Court by the NAACP, alleging that a Jackson, Mississippi health code was illegally being used by the city to prevent hybrids from working in a public school cafeterias. The trial lasted six months, at which point the 5th District found in favor of the plaintiff. The City of Jackson appealed, and the Appellate Court reversed this decision. A final appeal was made by the NAACP to the Supreme Court, who ruled without hearing arguments; based on the previous ruling, as well as the fact that all hybrids were considered to have a human parent, they ruled that they were, in fact, human, and therefore persons; furthermore, as persons born on US soil they were citizens under federal law and protected from discrimination in government buildings.
It’s worth noting that many of the original documents were destroyed after the passing of the law that forbade future testing, in an attempt to prevent the already infuriated public from knowing the extent of the experiments. As a result, whether hybrids were humans with feline genes and felines given humanoid form was, for decades, a major debate, with the few geneticists that spoke out about the studies insisting the latter was the case. This has been debunked by the modern medical community; the human traits are far too complex and consistent within the hybrid population to support this while the feline traits are more varied, leading most scientists to conclude that the original hybrids were created using human embryos as templates. As a result, the term “hybrid” is very much a misnomer; they are, in fact, humans inflicted with genetic chimerism rather than a direct combination of two distinct species.
There is less variation in the appearance of hybrids than humans, although there still remains enough diversity to easily identify individuals. Hybrids always have longer, thicker nails more reminiscent of claws, but they are still flat and rather rounded on the tips. Shorter-furred hybrids tend to have clean coats, and while their hair is longer on the crown it is still short enough to give it a layered-crop type look. Longer furred hybrids tend to have their cheek fur as the longest hair on the body, with the crown hair more ruffled and thicker than it is long. Due to the mixing of genes, tabbies are common, but bicolors and solid coats are still present. Genetically, coat color isn’t as easy to predict as with domestic cats, with ginger tabbies being capable of occasionally producing solid black offspring.
Certain family lines have traits characteristic of specific breeds or breed groups. Some families are stronger and more tolerant to pain. Others have a tendency to be faster and more agile. Some families produce larger, bulkier offspring with more rounded or boxy faces, while others produce thin, athletic individuals with more triangular faces. Over the generations, families have melded and these traits have started becoming more widespread, but certain family groups still tend to follow trends. These have been represented as the following gene groups:
Type A – tends to produce highly intelligent and gifted individuals. There is a tendency toward a more muscular build, square or boxy faces and high strength, as well as diabetes and arthritis. Vision tends to decline with age, although total blindness is uncommon. Height ranges from average to slightly tall, and nails tend to be more claw-like. Vegetable intolerance is uncommon, but not rare.
Type A1 tends to have nails that need to be sheathed and trimmed, and has a tendency toward white spotting and blue eyes.
Type A2 tends to be bulky and has an increased rate of birth defects and sterility. They tend to be protein intolerant and have a higher than average rate of lactose intolerance. They are known to have some difficulty with vegetables.
Type A3 tends to be have better health, although cancer is more common. White spotting and black fur are prevalent, although the black fur appears to be recessive. They tend to have short, moderately thick fur and retain more than the usual amount of eyeshine, allowing them to see in low-light. Amie and Anne Niles’ father was an A3.
Type A4 tends to be more aggressive and lean, but taller. They tend to have rounded faces–not unlike that of the British shorthair breed–and large, rounded eyes. They are notorious for having a very high pain tolerance and are more expressive with their ears and tails than they are with their faces. Their fur tends to be long and thick, although this varies somewhat in degree. Despite the commonality of anger issues, they are generally charismatic and outgoing. Devon Carter’s father falls here, and Ash Bauer’s mother was type A4. This type was known early on for a high rate of visual problems linked to genetics, but most of these appear to have been recessive as subsequent generations tend to have better vision. Dependence on taurine is not unheard of, but is very rare.
Type B – also produces intelligent and gifted individuals, but they tend to be short-to-average height and extreme athletic ability with very slender builds and triangular faces. Strength is above-average, adult health is better than type A but with a higher instance of congenital defects and sterility. Nails tend to be flatter and more rounded, and shed their sheaths less often. They are known for their exceptional eye sight, but are more prone toward eye infections. They are also more dependent on taurine.
Type B1 tends to have a higher rate of cancers and sterility, but is not very prone to other adult health issues. Amie Niles’ mother falls here.
Type B2 has a tendency to develop bone issues and arthritis, although congenital defects of this variety are rare. They’re generally taller and stronger as well. Devon Carter’s mother was type B2.
Type B3 is known for social shyness and being soft spoken, although they are also known for their rather calculating mindsets. Older individuals have an tendency to develop eye infections and as a whole are the only subtype to require meat in their diet. Ash Bauer’s father was Type B3.
Type B4 is well known for lactose intolerance and often suffer from difficulty with large amounts of protein. Urinary Tract Infections are common.
Type C – Tendency toward short to average height and poor athleticism. This type is extremely rare, and doesn’t appear to have much variety. There is a high rate of both congenital defects and sterility, and an above-average rate of adult health conditions. Spine issues are not unheard of, nor is dwarfism. Almost all Type C individuals suffer lactose intolerance, but they do not appear to have any difficulty with vegetables and are not taurine dependent. They tend to have difficulties with animal proteins, and as a result many with this type have adopted vegetarian lifestyles. Unfortunately, due the high rate of birth defects and sterility, not very many living Type C hybrids care capable of reproduction, and this subtype is on its way to extinction.
Type D tends to be tall with poor athleticism, although dwarfism is not uncommon. Higher than usual chance of birth defects, but very good adult health. Blindness is most common with this type, and they have a high dependence on taurine. Like Type C, there is a high rate of congenital defects and sterility in this group, however this isn’t nearly as widespread as with Type C, and as a result the population is not currently threatened, although they are still significantly less common than Types A and B.
Type D1 is known to have difficulties digesting vegetables, and is more sensitive to chemicals that would harm cats.
Type D2 is known to be completely taurine dependent, and must eat more meat than the average hybrid.
Type D3 suffers from both vegetable intolerance and taurine dependence, but not to the degrees of other subtypes.
Type D4 is the most tolerant of vegetables and is the least dependent on Taurine, but is notorious for lactose intolerance.
Common features to all hybrids include:
Humanoid posture and body shape–proportions of torso and arm and leg length are rather human, but legs may be a bit longer and thinner than most humans’.
Large, mostly feline-shaped heads, with the following exceptions: high brows and skulls to accommodate larger brain sizes. Muzzle is not quite feline in profile, being broader and shorter in proportion to head. The nose divots where it meets the eyes and angles upward, forming a more rounded forehead. Eyebrows protrude just enough to be noticeable, and typically have darker fur with a different hair texture. Eyelashes are present but are less noticeable than on humans.
Brain is larger, with eyesight, hearing and smell sections smaller in proportion to the rest, although these sections are still notably larger than in humans. Resembles a more rounded human brain. Intelligence is well within the human range, despite brain being overall larger on average than a human’s.
Senses of smell and hearing–as well as night vision–are significantly better than the average human’s, but much less pronounced than with felines. Color vision is very close to a human’s, although partial color blindness is not uncommon; varying degrees of protonopia (missing red cone cells) are the most common, unlike in humans where it is rather uncommon. Preferences of smell and taste are different than in both humans and felines; hybrids find musty and rancid odors far more pleasant than humans, but these odors still trigger a logical “offensive” mental response due to conflicting genes. Taste preferences lean far more toward the human side, but most hybrids have bizzare “quirks” in taste preferences that humans would find unusual or even revolting.
Smaller irises and round pupils; eyes are somewhat reflective of light, allowing better night vision than a true human but greatly diminished compared to a house cat. Eyes have a fovea rather than a visual streak.
Narrower horizontal field of view than felines, with more overlap on the eyes, but a broader field of view than humans. Vertical field of view is wider than felines but a bit narrower than humans due to facial structure.
26 teeth, all more proportional to a human’s, but somewhat maintaining their feline characteristics: eight molars (four maxillary, four mandibular); eight flatter and broader–but still slightly triangular–incisors (four maxillary, four mandibular) incisors, four rather jagged premolars (two maxillary, two mandibular); and two maxillary and two mandibular canines that are more catlike than human-like (although broader and not as pronounced). Enamel resists attrition, wearing at only 6 micrometers per year. The jaw is also capable of moving to side-to-side, allowing hybrids to chew; domestic cats lack this ability.
Four fingers and one thumb on each hand; five toes on each foot; hands and feet far more similar to humans’ than felines’. Fingers may have a thick, “sharp” nail or a slightly curved and more rounded “claw” depending on subtype. Toes will usually have a thick, rounded and sharpened nail. None of these nails can be retracted.
A rather humanoid skeletal structure, albeit a fair bit more flexible. The exception is the tail, which has more bones than a feline’s (26 to 30), but is thinner in proportion to the body and not quite as flexible.
Catlike ears situated on top of the head but extending across the sides. Openings are larger than humans’, veering more in proportion to a feline’s–yet not quite reaching it–but ears are also slightly larger in proportion than a feline’s.
They have thinner, less pronounced lips than humans, but are still capable of showing human expressions. They may also use their tails and ears to do so, although always in combination with facial expressions and never close to the degree a true cat would. Speech is not impeded, except in rare circumstances.
Due to the presence of fur and reduced sweating ability, Hybrids must wear lighter clothing. Higher end “tropical” wools are typically used in cold to moderate climates, while tropical and subtropical climates use either HMV rayon, linen or lightweight cotton; in the US, this can include twill, lightly woven poplin, and seersucker. Devon Carter, for instance, is known for his unlined cotton/rayon blend poplin suits.