Edward Owen – Author

Ray Bradbury Challenge #24- A Question of Loyalty

A Question of Loyalty

soldier dog

 My name is Barandein. Me and my kind are the only thing standing between your people and extinction. Yes, we will give our life in defense of yours if necessary. It is truly what we live for. As it has been for ten thousand years, our loyalty to humans is unshakeable.

I have been on patrol for two hours and it is time to check in with my human.

“Alpha-seven to Foxtrot-three, do you copy?”

My communication is translated by the computer chip in my brain and broadcast directly on the radio. My vocal cords will not allow me to emulate human speech. I was modified and enhanced for duty but I was not genetically altered like the new breeds. I am one of the last, purebred Canis familiaris in the Corps.

Foxtrot-three, go Alpha-seven.”

“Sector J secure at twenty-two thirty hours. I am RTB by route four-oh-four.”

Copy, Foxtrot-three clear.”

If I had to, I could get to the base in fifteen minutes. I can run nearly twice as fast as a human, even with a full pack. I settle into a steady trot that will conserve my energy for more important uses. Even though there has been no sign of the enemy in this area, I keep my guard up and sniff the air for their scent.

On my way back to the base I pass a building whose walls are stained with blood. The smell of death and the enemy still lingers there. Less than a year ago it was used for the instruction of human children. Sensing their weakness, our enemy slaughtered the young and defenseless with a ferocity unmatched in human history. Command estimates that nearly ninety percent of those too young to fight were killed in the first days of the war. Out of seven hundred humans at our base, there are only four who have yet to reach breeding age. One adult female is ready to give birth, but the odds of her offspring surviving its first year are very slim. The virus that created our enemy often infects new born humans. They are killed out of mercy. It is a shame that humans have only one or two young in a litter. If they had more, they would stand a better chance of survival. Things do not look good for their breed.

Before I enter the base, I climb to the lookout stand and trade sniffs with Donagaen. He is first generation canis de manu hominis, genetically engineered for increased intelligence and human speech. Despite his advantages, he lowers his head in respect. It is my instinct for the hunt and survival, passed on to his breed that makes us superior warriors and keeps us alive.

His human and mine share the same sire. Humans call them ‘half-brothers’ but we Canines do not understand the difference. Litter mates may not have the same bloodline, but that doesn’t make them any less blood-bound.

“And what scent has the air, First Mage?” I ask. My use of his title repays his respect.

“The wind breathes clean and clear, Alpha sir. A still night with no sound to cause alarm.”

His human speech rings in my ears with a strange, hollow tone. My vocalizer is no doubt less than pleasant to him but he shows no sign of discomfort. He complains not, nor does he question orders. He is a warrior.

“Very well. Keep a wary ear and a sharp nose, Donagaen. They are quick and clever.”

The wag of his tail is his only response, the human equivalent of a salute.

The attack is quick and vicious. I am already on the ramp and suffer only superficial wounds. Donagaen is not so lucky. He fights with teeth and blades, sending scores of the vermin to their death. Their sheer numbers overwhelm him. Before I can assist, his body disappears under a wave of sharp claws and fangs. His howls will be added to those I already hear in my dreams.

“Alpha-seven to base, we are code red at checkpoint seventeen, repeat, code red. Enemy is breaching, send first and second squads. Engage with extreme prejudice.”

I can outrun them for a short distance, maybe long enough to reach the gate. The scraping of their claws on the gravel goads me into pushing my body. My pack injects stimulants into my blood, keeping me ahead of my pursuers. I am only a few meters from the gate when it opens and the squads rush toward me, howling in the primal language of our ancestors. We are outnumbered ten to one, but they tear through the enemy ranks, blood and fur splatters the ground in the darkness. These Canines have been engineered for the single purpose of killing our enemy. Humans have fitted them with protective armor and advanced weapons. Despite this, we lose a third of them before the battle is over. That is our foe’s greatest weapon; overwhelming numbers. Their females go into heat nearly as often as humans and they are able to breed within a few months after birth.

Humans created the virus to increase their immunity to diseases. They had no idea that it would produce monsters. In their own kind, mutations usually die within a few weeks. It is a horrible, painful way to die. Canines were spared, our wolf ancestry gave us immunity.

It is estimated that at the time the disease was released, there were over one hundred million members of the species Felis silvestris catus kept as pets in America alone. Feral members accounted for another fifty million. Now, their numbers are almost half a billion. Cats not only survived the disease, they thrived. Most of them are double the size of their predecessors with fangs, claws and a taste for blood to match. They make no distinction between human and Canine. And they are the enemy.

2 Thoughts on “Ray Bradbury Challenge #24- A Question of Loyalty

  1. Like your style- but my wife would HATE that cats are the bad guys.. LOL!

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