by Jack Goldman
Two stories, two genres, read it once and get "new eyes" to read it again.
"Alert! Alert!" The Main Sensor indicated the approach of a possible intruder.
The Sentry initiated the alarm; its warnings pierced the air and startled all. The approaching entity changed course. Starship Chippewa was safe once again.
Although single minded in his effort, having been programmed to guard, to alarm and on the rare occasion necessary, to attack, he was not limited to mere duties of a Sentry, nor did he really think of himself as just a guard. Commander of Chippewa held him in the highest regard, and handed over the reins of power during those times when Commander was forced to leave Starship Chippewa and enter space. Today, he entrusted the Sentry yet again.
"Sentry, I expect no breach. We must protect Chippewa at all costs. You have the con old boy," said Commander.
The Sentry scanned the command console, its controls and its soft, inviting leather. The Sentry felt important and pleased with Commander's confidence.
A non-human construct, the Sentry conveyed messages that were measured and short so they could be easily understood. In response to today's admonition to protect Chippewa, the Sentry emitted two quick sounds that reverberated down the long hall leading from Commander's quarters to the command center, which housed the con and various devices crucial to the operation of the ship, including the main view-screen.
And today, Commander deemed it necessary to transmit further data. "Don't expect me back for some time."
Commander, astute as always, caught the query in the Sentry's eyes. "It's nothing dramatic," he said. "Just a meeting with another of those weird alien things. I'll be back before evening chow."
He departed in his personal shuttle, a sleek transport. It possessed shadings that at once reflected and absorbed the sometimes-dangerous rays emitted in the spatial void outside Starship Chippewa.
Due to the methodology used in engineering the Sentry and his kind, many of the words uttered by Commander during transmission were difficult to transcribe. "Weird alien things" wasn't really what Commander said, but it was the closest the Sentry could match the tones in his limited linguistics database. Never really sure what or who the "alien things" were, he felt they might be dangerous. This didn't concern the Sentry to a great degree, since he believed in Commander's ability to be adroit in negotiations.
Almost immediately after Commander's departure, sensors indicated further potential trouble.
"Alert! Alert!" The Sentry's Main Sensor intoned, always at the ready.
"Report, Main Sensor," he commanded.
"Entity One approaches from "A" quadrant on same plane as Starship Chippewa, indicating potential threat."
"Describe approaching Entity One." The Sentry's intensity became apparent as his entire body froze into position.
"Entity One appears to be a weird alien being. Personality assessment indicates no intent to invade Starship Chippewa, but ruse prevention is in order."
"Why do you suggest this, Main Sensor?" asked the Sentry.
"Entity One is accompanied by Entity Two. Entity Two is a Sentry."
"A Sentry?" Startled, the Sentry almost went into a panic. "Immediate further assessment of Entity Two!"
"Acknowledged," said Main Sensor."Entity Two shows normal Sentry curiosity, but at this time does not feel threatened. Our presence inside Starship Chippewa has been detected, but Entity Two seems uninterested. Entity Two intends active engagement with another Sentry as they pass into "B" quadrant. Purpose of engagement is protection of Entity One."
"Very well; but I will utilize warning devices, just the same."
The Sentry sent alarms continuously in various pitches and patterns of emission until Entity One and Entity Two glided past and no longer threatened the sanctity of Chippewa. Though relieved, the Sentry felt pride he might have sent the potential invaders scuttling.
The approach of the possible hostiles put the Sentry behind schedule. He hurriedly made his rounds, inspecting each and every compartment of Chippewa. He used his Main Sensor most often, but resorted sometimes to Subsensors One and Three. Upon completing his tasks and satisfied that Chippewa was safe, his internal devices communicated that he needed a recharge. He entered the galley where the thoughtful Commander had ensured the needed materials were placed within his reach.
The Sentry was a complicated construction and capable of much more than Commander Chippewa required. On this issue, the Sentry felt at times confused, since Commander often chose to limit his duties, not that protecting Starship Chippewa was a minor task. Surely, thought the Sentry, Commander was aware that Sentries were not just third dimensional beings.
Their sensory apparatus, installed eons past and by now improved upon immensely, could detect the swirling, ethereal beings of fifth dimension when they sometimes chose to haunt third dimensional space. They could mentally adjust time in a sideways manner in order to communicate in linear reverse. This last, simply a method of sending and receiving data using time waves to traverse all dimensions, was something the humans called telepathy. It was the most efficient way to communicate for the Sentry. In third dimension the Sentry's abilities were limited, and communication was more difficult. But it was also in third dimension where Commander was restricted.
Developed in the star system the humans called Alpha Canis Majoris, the Sentries traversed the universe in vast motherships as protectors, as guardians of transports of many kinds, including starships. They kept their lexicon regarding themselves simple. They were simply the “Sentry" of whatever transport they were assigned; although human incarnations had a tendency to place upon them additional monikers, to which the Sentries were obligated to respond.
The Sentry assiduously guarded Starship Chippewa , actually a subship docked, temporarily perhaps, with a mothership as it hurtled through the Arm of Sumer, a consortium of fifty billion galaxies whirling ever outward from the Source.
A symbiotic relationship long ago developed between Sentries and humans and their souls. Souls were the multidimensional aspects of all beings, and human souls were as close to the Source as any being the Sentries had ever encountered. They gravitated to them as a result.
The Sentry, rounds finished, energy recharge complete, hopped into the command console and enjoyed the softness of its surroundings to such a point that he almost went into temporary shutdown.
His mind wandered once again to his great Commander and the admiration they held for one another. Then, he sensed intent to return home on the part of Commander.
The Sentry snapped to, his loyalty emotion long ago programmed to override his thoughts. He commanded Main Sensor and Subsensor One to report.
"Emission signature detected," said the Main Sensor. "Commander's personal transport is traversing "A" quadrant, same plane of approach as Starship Chippewa!"
"Location?" The Sentry barked the question so that it seemed more of a demand.
"Intersection of East Fourth and Cherry Lane."
Subsensor One indicated, "Wheel squeak exclusive to Commander's personal transport heard! It is now at the intersection of Cherry Lane and Chippewa, one block away!" The report brought a whine of anticipation from the Sentry.
"Confirmed!" said Main Sensor, also known as Nose, now on odor-overload.
The Sentry could not prevent his excitement, even had he desired. He ran back and forth, his dimensional receptor, a tail mechanism and something which humans lacked, wagged uncontrollably.
Visual confirmation from Subsensor Three through a window on the east side of Starship Chippewa indicated the personal transport, a Viper, entered the docking garage. Subsensor Three, called Eyes, watched the docking doors rise automatically. The Sentry ran to the entrance, and whimpered in gratitude that Commander had returned safely to his home ship, docked at 1114 Chippewa Street - Providence Village, Texas, Mothership Earth.
Main Sensor blessed the Sentry with the Commander's special scent and its meaning: love and friendship. Ecstatic, The Sentry twirled twice, preparing to step sideways in time so that he could determine the outcome of the meeting with the weird alien thing.
But, before he could get a reading, Commander smiled, knowing the Sentry was curious. "Bones, old boy, the date with Ellen went fine, " said Commander as he stooped and scratched The Sentry's neck. "We saw a movie. Now, how about some chow?"
Now that you have discovered this is not really a sci fi space opera, just some guy's dog guarding his house while out on a date, I invite you to re read it from that perspective to see and feel how the story changes.