Professor Truo watched the twelve top students from Starden Station's 312th Unit who had shown an aptitude for learning Ancient Earth systems. They didn't give him much hope with those blue stripes painted in diagonals across their faces, though this was better than last year's style of dotted faces. Truo prayed to the gods of fashion that the multiple eyes style never returned. All those faces filled with blinking eyes had given him nightmares for years.
"Welcome to Late Industrial Age Humanity, Advanced Course." People didn't yell in their enlightened age, and neither did he -- but he could speak loudly when needed. He had their attention.
Only two eyes each blinked at him. Cascades of multi-colored hair drifted about their heads so that they'd moved the chairs farther apart. The students were so apt to change appearance between classes that professors no longer tried to name them or distinguish if they had a gender preference. Professors called them by their chair numbers, and Truo let the scanners tag answers into proper files.
He longed for the old days of electronic education where teacher and student never interacted with each other. How much he had appreciated those students!
Times had changed. Besides, these twelve were the best of the best. Things could be worse.
"Because you are the highest of the academics in your range, you will attend lectures that will further your understanding of that dark and dramatic time of the Late Industrial Age. Today, we begin with a look at one aspect of home life that people of our era find incomprehensible. This is the time of the Fur Children, the Fur Babies ... the golden age of the pets.
"You know that pets came in a wide range from reptiles and snakes to large creatures typically still found in the wilds. The Fur Children, however, manifested mostly in two compact forms.
"This is an image of a dog and the immature version, called a puppy. This branch of life, which were also called Doggos and Puppers, came in a variety of sizes, colors, and fur types as you see in these holographs. As you can see in this magnificent set of images, they were often adopted as Fur Children, dressed in human outfits, taken to special parks, and sometimes placed in the same sort of pushed buggies also used for fully human children."
Eyes blinked. Got wide. Blinked again. Truo doubted most of the station's population had ever understood the full range of dog shapes and colors, let alone their place in human society. They were many generations away from Earth, and even for him, the idea of such creatures, wandering around at according to their whims troubled him.
"These are cats, and the immature version which is a kitten," he said. "Cats did not seem to acquire the same range of species names as applied to the Doggos, possibly because they were more independent. Nonetheless, there are numerous signs that cats too were 'adopted' and dressed as humans and taken out in buggies.
"For many years, archaeologists believed that this aberrant behavior was the result of a drop in the birthrate, and those archaic humans needed the psychological and societal ties of a full family. They brought such Puppers and Kittens into their homes and pretended to make them human. This would have been a mass societal lie, accepted by a majority of the population -- but we've seen those illogical concepts before in this time frame. These people already acclimatized to accept blatant untruths.
"However, in the recent past, a substantial amount of evidence shows that Fur Children were found in homes along with several human children as well as in homes with only a single male or female -- that is, they were present in every type of human home life at the time. Also, there were a substantial number of households without either human young or Fur Children, and these non-pet homes show no sign of suffering from discrimination. Also, pets of all sorts were often abandoned and lived wild.
"With these revelations, we are forced to admit that Fur Babies and Fur Children were not required in society. Yet they grew in number. Yes, Chair Eight?"
"Could it be that these --" Eight waved a hand at the array of antique dressed hologram creatures in the air to the sides of Truo -- "were not alive?"
Looks of appreciation spread to the others. Eight had just come up in the ranks.
"Excellent question. In fact, many archaeologists hold to this belief despite obvious signs to the contrary made apparent in the last century of archeology. There was, for instance, an entire income-base created by the manufacture of special pet foods and they even had their own separate medical system."
"But the cost of medical care in those days...." Chair Two said, eyes staring again at the creatures.
"Exactly, Chair Two. Like much of the material we have managed to excavate from this age, there seems to be no true logic in these actions. We live in an age where we understand everything, except the actions of our own ancestors. It is incomprehensible for us to see how they could adopt these creatures and treat them, despite their limited intelligence, as part of their family unit --"
"But they're cute!"
Truo turned to Chair Three. He blinked several times. "Cute?"
"Look at those little furry faces and big eyes! Don't you just want to hug them? I could never choose between them. Could you have both?"
"Ummm ... apparently, yes?"
"Wonderful! I can see them dressed as station crew, prancing down the corridors?" Others smiled. "How fun it would be to deal with something that was not always a challenge to your position in life!"
There was no logic to it ... but the Fur Babies finally made sense.
"I suppose we still have some Pupper and Kitty DNA." Twelve said
Truo suspected they had a class project. He also thought they were about to change their world.