Before the Time of Rifts, the quest for human augmentation naturally lead to genetic manipulation. North America was by far the leader in the era of genetic research. They had enjoyed some spectacular results working on laboratory animals. However, genetic manipulation of human beings proved to be much more unpredictable and deadlier than the alteration of animal genes. Ultimately, this lead to extensive experimentation. Only the Chinese continued experimentation on human subjects. Eventually, American "gene splicers," as they were called, could endow animals with human (or at least humanoid) intelligence, speech, and physiology.
The great controversy that arose from the creation of intelligent mutant animals was the fear that humans were establishing a new precedent for slavery. The outcry against slavery was well taken, because the American government had high hopes for, literally, creating a super soldier from animal mutants. Soldiers with the predatory instincts, inhuman abilities, strength, and endurance of an animal, complemented by the intelligence of a human. Fortunately, social outrage stopped the creation of a race of mutant soldiers and laborers before it had begun. Still, the government continued secret research in the area for decades to come, just in case the need should arise. In fact, billions were spent on the completion of a genetics engineering facility that included a vast factory-like plant with full design and manufacturing capabilities. Rumor had it that the secret plant could create hundreds of mutant animals a month. Of course, the government denied the existence of any such facility, admitting only that minimal genetic research continued at the Tex-Am Complex, a top secret military base located in Texas.
While society may have had the presence of mind to stop the reestablishment of slavery in the 21st Century, the world of Rifts is a much crueler and savage period. The Coalition has created and utilized mutant animals for labor, as soldiers, and for experimentation for years. The Lone Star Coalition State is the center for genetic research and development. It is at Lone Star that the majority of the Dog Pack and other mutations are created and trained. As one may have guessed, Lone Star is the Tex-Am Complex, which, amazingly, survived the apocalyptic time of the rift explosions mostly unscathed. It was its fabulous genetics, manufacturing, military security, and other unique capabilities that enticed solicitation for its addition as a member of the Coalition States. The place is barely a city. Instead, Lone Star is a sprawling 20 mile (32 km) research and manufacturing complex with half the population of Chi-Town. A population that is half mutant animals. However, Lone Star is completely self-sufficient, with both nuclear and fossil fuel power and resources, state of the art science and genetics laboratories dating to pre-Rifts earth, and high-tech manufacturing plants of all kinds (55% are currently in full operation, while the remaining still need massive restoration).
The Coalition's obsession with maintaining the purity of the "true" human race is both the motivation for the creation and enslavement of mutant animals, as well as the one thing that curbs them from even greater exploitation of genetically engineered creations. This purist mentality also means that the genetic manipulation of human beings is strictly forbidden. Animals, on the other hand, are created for use as laborers, soldiers, and special operatives throughout the wilderness. They are usually dispatched to areas where the threat to human life is greatest. The thought being, why endanger a human life when an "animal" can pave the way?
The most famous of the Coalition's mutant animal creations is the nefarious Dog Pack. Although other mutant animals exist, especially at Lone Star, the one animal used above all others is the dog. The dog has proven to be the most desirable and reliable of all animals for several reasons.
One, they have a long history of cohabitation with human beings. Whether there is any real scientific reason for this special relationship between man and canine is doubtful. However, psychologically, humans quickly accepted, trusted, and liked dogs. This leads to an immediate bonding or friendship between the two. After all, dogs have been "Man's best friend" for eons. This acceptance and warm response by humans only serves to make the mutant animals feel loved, cherished,needed, and dedicated to the protection of their masters.
Secondly, dogs are instinctively pack animals. Because they see themselves as part of the "human" pack, they automatically accept their social position as subservient members within the pack society. COnsequently, they are submissive and steadfastly loyal to humans, whom they perceive as the pack leaders or dominant pack members.
Third, the animals generally love to work with, and being around humans. This social cooperativeness, combined with the animal's loyalty to the pack and desire to please, makes their training and indoctrination very easy and thorough. Nor do they question their orders to balk at danger. Unlike many humans, a mutant dog will leap into the jaws of death with little hesitation to save a human or fellow pack member. An example of the self-perpetuating love/friendship between humans and dogs.
Fourth, as a soldier, the dog offers several advantages. Besides the obvious superiority in physical strength and endurance, dogs possess several additional abilities. IN general, the dog's sense of smell is a million times more sensitive than a human's and possess a much more sensitive ranger of hearing. This makes them much more alert and ideal for tracking.
Fifth, dogs are natural hunters who instinctively chase anything that moves, making them more observant than humans. An ideal trait for a man-hunter.
Lastly, and in some ways, most important to the Coalition, dogs are among the few creatures that are naturally sensitive to the supernatural. Dogs are similar to psi-stalkers in that they can automatically sense the presence of magic and the paranormal. An ability which the gene splicers have been able to maintain and enhance in intelligent mutant canines.
Coalition Dog Packs are a former part of the CS Armed Forces and receive the same basic training as the Coalition grunt. However, the dog pack also received special training in honing their tracking abilities and psychic powers. The purpose of the mutants is to be a special forces operative and watchdog against assaults by psychics, magic, and the supernatural. A pack of four or more mutant dogs is always led by a psi-stalker. The team patrols CS cities, military bases, and entrances ever vigilant for the distinctive presence of the paranormal.
Individual members of Dog Pack troops, nick-named "Psi-Hounds" and "Dog Boys," are given free reign to wander the city or military to keep an eye out for, and investigate, any suspicious activity or individuals. To rebuke the inquiries of a dog boy will mean a full Dog Pack, led by a psi-stalker, arriving moments later to enforce a full (and unpleasant) investigation. A Dog Pack and psi-stalker have authority to enter any civilian establishment or home if they have reasonable cause, and sensing the presence of magic or the paranormal is probable cause for these psychic sensitive.
The Dog Pack is also used to track criminals, especially magic and psionic criminals, intruders in the city, and supernatural menaces, as well as being used as a general police force. Most CS city dwellers are comforted by the presence of the loyal and courteous Dog Boys, and cooperate with them to the fullest.
In the wilderness, troops of the Dog Pack soldiers (or other mutant animals) may be dispatches into areas of conflict. Like the US Marines of old, the Dog Pack is often the first to be sent into a trouble zone for reconnaissance and/or initial assault. More often, they are sent out as scouts and spies in search of covert operators (translation: groups and individuals who practice the arts of magic, consort with non-humans, or study ancient books/ruins/education). They are also sent out on regular reconnaissance, intelligence, and seek-and-destroy missions. The Dog Pack soldier may be a soldier in a completely mutant animal squad, a member of a human team, Dog Pack, or an individual on a solo assignment.
Individual Dog Boys are frequently sent into the wilderness to pretend to be runaways or mercenaries. This subterfuge enables them to observe the activities of real mercenaries or wilderness adventurers firsthand. Of course, some mutant dogs will forsake the Coalition when they discover the freedom that other societies and groups offer. OR are simply enticed to wander the world to personally explore all its marvels. This too, is anticipated, by the Coalition and is part of an exercise to see how many Dog Pack soldiers remain loyal when placed under varying conditions of freedom, stress, or danger.
Generally, Dog Pack mutants are treated well and with kindness. They are especially loved by their psi-stalker Dog Pack leader. However, the Coalition and most people in the CS see the mutant animals not as intelligent life forms, and never as equals, but as trained animals. They love and care for the mutants just as they might a normal dog, as a pet and servant. As such, they are treated like simple-minded children, often referred to in the third person even when present, and believed to be greatly inferior to human beings.
Since they are seen as specially bred and trained "animals," the mutant dogs are generally considered to be an expendable commodity. A human might feel a bit of a loss over the death of a favorite hunting dog killed by a wild animal, but one simply discards the dead body and goes out to purchase a new dog. This is the general attitude of the Coalition military and most citizens. The mutant dog soldiers are just big doggies that walk on two legs, sport arms and hands, and talk instead of bark. If a job is too dangerous for a human, send in a mutant animal. If it dies, a new one can always be purchased or bred. An attitude that is not shared by the psi-stalkers who act as the team leader of all Dog Packs. In fact, the Coalition's heartless abuse of their animal creations is the one element that could, someday, turn the psi-stalkers away from them.
Oddly, most Dog Pack mutants don't see anything wrong with how they are treated and tend to concur that they are expendable, rather than jeopardize a valuable human life (remember the pack mentality). This also means that they rarely feel cheated or abused, and are happy just to be part of the human pack.
Mutant Cats (Popularly known as Nekos)
The Lone Star does not just experiment with dogs. Several of their success have been with cats. Although not used in the Coalition like the famous Dog Pack, the cats are known infamously in the vampire-ridden region of Mexico. They are known to exist in the wildernesses and around small villages out of Coalition reach. Mutant Cats (Nekos) are trained in espionage and covert missions, and have many of the animalistic abilities of those of their K9-CounterPart.