Everyone knows there's no intelligent life out in the universe...right?
|Buddy spun in his swivel chair, sending the room of computers blurring into one stream of blue.
"Take a job at the space station, they said. Work yourself up into the Alpha Pack, they said," Buddy growled. His voice seemed to echo in the large room. Lights from various machines flashed yellow, green, and red over his furry face. "What they failed to say was how utterly boring a Planetary Protection Officer's days are."
Lurching from the chair, Buddy reached for the pot of ruhlarc gurgling in a pot on the counter. The black liquid sloshed into his stained mug and tendrils of steam wafted to his sensitive, black nose. Peering into the murky depths of the ruhlarc, Buddy imagined himself free from the confines of his office and out with his brothers, hunting the mighty fel'iscatus. The pointy eared little devils made good use of their claws when they were backed into a corner but it was worth the scratches they inflicted. Their teeth were worth thousands in cnámhs.
"And here I am, stuck in a boring office, waiting for signs of aliens," he barked out a laugh and lapped up a tongue-full of the bitter liquid. "Everyone knows there's no intelligent life in the universe. So why do they make me sit here day-after-day, waiting for the beep that will never happen?"
He set the cup down next to his favorite computer less gently than he normally would. The mug tipped over and ruhlarc oozed toward the keyboard.
"Raechum!" Buddy snarled. His eyes flickered around the room in search of a rag or towel. Finding nothing, he sighed and pulled his turtleneck up and over his floppy ears and dropped it onto the dark puddle. The ruhlarc soaked into the white garment, staining it brown.
The computer beeped.
Buddy wadded the shirt up into a ball, stuffed it into his knapsack, and scratched his hairy chest.
The computer beeped.
He returned the empty mug to its spot near the ruhlarc machine.
The computer beeped.
Buddy's spotted ear perked up. He turned toward the computer and growled at a blinking green dot flashing on the screen.
"It's not possible!" The computer beeped again as he fumbled for the red phone sitting on the desk. His fingers trembled as he dialed the one number he had been trained to remember. The line clicked.
"This better be the real deal," a voice huffed. In his mind's eye Buddy could see the white-furred Gamma female that dogged the desk on the other end of the phone. He could imagine her tapping a sharp nail against her desk as she deigned to speak with a lowly mutt from the Tau Pack.
"Look at quadrant 7-B, Lucky," Buddy whimpered, "You'll see it's not one of ours."
"How can you tell?" Buddy could hear the skepticism in her voice.
"Well, if you look at the screen you'll see it's a green dot. All our dots are blue."
"A green dot, huh? I think Alpha Bitch should hear about this right away. And you're just the pup to tell her."
Buddy growled but bit back a smart aleck response. Lucky obviously didn't believe him or else she'd be trotting off to give Alpha the news herself.
"I'll be up in two shakes of a zerlan tail," Buddy whined.
"I'll tell the Alpha you're on your way. She'll be thrilled to be interrupted from her important meeting with our tribal brothers and sisters to look at a green dot."
Buddy dropped the phone back into its receiver.
"Stupid rugug," Buddy snorted, "Just goes to show that Gammas aren't the sharpest arrow in the quiver." Stomping to the elevator, Buddy engaged the maglev by pushing two red buttons and yanking on a lever. The elevator lurched sideways, dinging as it passed each side level, before shooting upward forty-two levels. Buddy took a nervous step into the gleaming hallway where the big dogs played.
"Where's your shirt, Tau Buddy?"
A whine jumped from Buddy's throat. His eyes flickered over Alpha Bitch's tawny face before he remembered himself and flopped to his back, revealing his soft belly.
"Forgive me, Alpha. My shirt met with an . . . accident." His tongue lolled out of his mouth as he waited for her to either accept him or rip out his throat.
"As you were, pup," Alpha snapped. Buddy bounced to his feet, relieved, and followed with his tucked between his legs as the ruler of Sirius Beta marched to the nearest lab station. "Show me the dot," she commanded.
A few taps to the keyboard with his black nails and the computer lit up. A green dot flashed on the screen. Buddy grunted as he realized it had moved closer to the big red ball that represented their planet.
"As you know, Alpha, our ships always blink blue. This dot," he gestured at the monitor, "is green. Which means it's —"
"Alien," Alpha shook her shaggy head. Her brown eyes widened and her pupils dilated. Buddy caught a scent of fear before the Alpha was able to control herself. "Do we know where it came from?"
Buddy hesitated, "No, Alpha. I would have to design a simulation program to calculate its trajectory back to its origin. Until then, we won't know who built it. We never believed there existed an intelligent life form that could build, well, whatever that is."
"We don't have time for programming," Alpha yipped. "That green dot has moved miles closer to our planet as we've stood here chewing the fat."
Buddy licked the drool dangling from his lips as visions of fatty veokeme danced across his mind. He forced himself to focus on the numbers, calculating a rough estimate of when the UFO would reach their atmosphere.
"Yes, Alpha. The alien ship —"
"Ship? Let's not jump to conclusions, pup!" Beta Spot snarled at the computer. His lips pulled back to reveal white, flashing fangs, "This measly little green blip could be a meteor or . . . or . . ."
"With all due respect," Buddy whined at Alpha's second in command, "At the speed it's traveling, it's more than likely a ship of some sort."
Alpha straightened her shoulders. "And we'll be there to meet it when it arrives. Tau Buddy, where will this ship of yours land?"
A map was shoved into Buddy's shaking hands. He chuckled nervously when he realized it was upside-down. In the correct position, his finger traced a dirty path to the Crescent Continent.
"It'll hit near the Bay Mountain Range, in the Woof Province," Buddy tapped the spot on the map.
"Good boy!" Alpha whined. Buddy's tail wagged as she turned to Beta Spot and Gamma Patches.
"We're going to need the jet. Let's go, dogs, go!"
Buddy watched as Alpha's pack ran one way or another to prep for the trip. His tail drooped as the Gamma's and Deltas ignored him.
"Do you want to go or not?" Alpha growled, holding up a hand to stop a Gamma holding out a bullet-proof vest.
"Really?" Buddy panted.
Alpha rolled her eyes and shrugged into the vest. "I wouldn't be asking if I didn't mean it, pup. I suspect we're going to need your brains out on the field."
"Oh, thankyoueversomuch!" Buddy whimpered, ready to roll over and show his belly. Alpha waved away his submission.
"Get on the jet. We're leaving in ten minutes with or without you."
As the land flew under his feet, Buddy wondered what it would feel like to stick his head out of the jet's window. The pumped in air with all its tantalizing smells wasn't as satisfying as feeling the wind blow against his fur as he breathed in the world's scents.
They landed in the Woof Province and Buddy could make out a flash of orange outside the window. The ship was close. A few nervous whines came from behind his back and he fought the urge to join them.
"There it is," Alpha grunted. Buddy stared out the jet's window and watched a sparkling silver box flying through the atmosphere. It slowed as it hurtled over the mountains until it was hovering over a field of gexeisze.
"Don't all go rushing off at once," Alpha snorted as her pack sat frozen in place. Buddy forced his legs under himself and stood. The jet door was flung open. Buddy's muscles bunched and he launched himself to the ground with Alpha just as the alien ship started to glow.
"Careful," Alpha whispered, placing a hand on his elbow.
A door cracked open on the alien ship. Buddy squinted at the light that blazed from inside the strange structure. His hackles rose when a long shadow stretched across the field.
"It's —" Beta Spot stepped forward with a snarl. Alpha snapped her teeth at his back.
"Stand your ground, Spot!" she commanded, "I don't think we have much to fear from a runty deinstri."
Buddy cocked his head and stared at the alien toddling off the ship. The only fur it had was bright orange and rested on the top of its head. Its skin was smooth and as white as a pebble in the Ruff River. It wobbled as it moved until it suddenly fell to its padded rear. A strange warbling came from the creature's mouth.
"I don't like it!" Beta Spot barked. "It makes an annoying noise! Worse than the lumina at the Feast of NomNom!"
Buddy glanced at Alpha. "I think it is a youngling. With your permission, Alpha . . .?"
Alpha's ears twitched forward and back before she nodded. Buddy crept forward. As he drew close to the alien, he could smell the salt from its tears and a pang of sympathy shot through Buddy's heart. He fell to his knees and crawled the last few paces until he was face-to-face with the alien.
"Greetings," he grumbled, "And welcome to Sirius Beta. We mean you no harm."
The alien sniffed. Its eyes widened and its small mouth fell open with a squeal, revealing one bumpy tooth. Startled, Buddy tried to jerk back, but the creature had grabbed his floppy ear.
"Puppy!" the alien laughed. Buddy looked into the creature's bright blue eyes and panted.
He gently pulled his ear from the deinstri's sticky grasp as Alpha's band of warriors ran up to inspect the alien. Buddy lifted the creature into his arms and snarled at the pack, claiming the creature as his own.
"Looks like intelligent life does exist in the universe," Buddy yipped, and looked down at the alien. "We'll just need to figure out where it came from. "
Partial Dictionary of Sirius Beta:
cnámha [craw-va] noun. plural for cnámh. (1) Monetary system on Sirious Beta (2) Calcium and collagen portions of a mammal's body that creates its structure
(3) An article of food, usually with meat attached to it.
deinstri [dee-EN-stree] noun. A hairless primate.
Feast of NomNom [feest-uv-nohmnohm] noun. Celebration in which all the packs of Sirius Beta gather together and feast on the flesh of the hunted.
fel'iscatus [feel-us-cat-us] noun. An unintelligent band of carnivorous beasts that live in the Dogwoods of Sirious Beta. They have long whiskers, pointy ears, and sharp retractable claws.
gexeisze [jex-ee-see] noun. Short, yellow plants that smell like rotting leaves.
lumina [loom-in-uh] noun. Gunpowder shot into the sky that creates beautiful, albeit loud, lights.
maglev [mag-lev] noun. Magnetic levitation.
raechum [ray-choom] verb. (1) Excretion, evacuation (2) slang. something worthless.
rugug [rug-ug] noun. A type of fowl with a bald head, a long red wattle, and a fan-like tail.
ruhlarc [rew-lark] noun. A beverage made from the roasted and crushed beans of a ruhlarc tree.
veokeme [vee-OH-kim] noun. A powerful beast with four cloven hooves and a head weighed down with sharp horns.
zerlan [ZUR-lin] noun. A curly coated creature whose wool is made into toys for pups and whose flesh is eaten at the Feast of NomNom.