by Mary E. Lowd
Amelia’s heart jumped inside her chest, and instead of returning to a normal rhythm after the jump, it just kept racing, beating so fast that it felt like it was trying to break free from her body and run toward the humans — her gods! — that she was suddenly certain they’d found.
They shouldn’t have been looking.
She was a Bad Dog for being here. A Bad Dog for letting this happen. They were supposed to Wait.
But here they were, and the viewscreen was filled with bright points that — when Trugger zoomed in on them — were clearly artificial structures. Metal objects, strewn everywhere. Spaceships. A space station?
The home of Humanity?
Was this where the First Race had gone?
Were they really Here?
Could a Bad Dog be Rewarded for being Bad?
Was this what the First Race had intended all along?
The thought was profound blasphemy, but maybe, the First Race had meant for all the species they’d left behind to work together. Maybe this was what was supposed to happen.
Amelia had spent her whole life being a Good Dog. If this was where her devout behavior had brought her, then maybe she was supposed to be here.
A dark thought occurred to Amelia: maybe none of these spaceships belonged to Humanity. Maybe they’d hopped into the middle of a hive of dangerous wasp-like space aliens who would bring war and devastation to the solar system as soon as they learned of the resources waiting there.
Maybe by being a Good Dog, Amelia would be able to bring warnings of that impending attack back to Earth and all the other Good Dogs there before it was too late.
Maybe she was simply a tool of the First Race and shouldn’t worry so much about how they used her.
Maybe she needed to wait until the crew of The Lucky Boomerang knew more before jumping to conclusions.
Maybe her faith in the First Race would carry her through, if she could just be a Good Dog and Trust them, rather than worry about the possibility — the shining, glorious, unthinkably wonderful possibility — of getting to meet her gods one day face to face.
There were too many maybes, and it felt like they were ripping Amelia’s curly-furred body apart in every direction. “I think…” Amelia said, “I’m going to retire for now as well.” She had no power here. Captain Kipper had made that clear. All she could do was wait until the cat in charge — such an oxymoron — chose to bring the ship in closer. And right now, it felt easier to wait in the barracks, near Sequoia, as the squirrel hopefully slept peacefully, than to wait up here, watching the inappropriately powerful cat stumble through making these decisions.
One thing Amelia had to grant about the tabby cat captain — even if a tabby cat should not be a captain — was that she was open and honest with her crew. So, if The Lucky Boomerang were to make another, important move, Amelia trusted that Captain Kipper would warn them all.
When Amelia reached the barracks, she looked at the red squirrel, fastened in her bunk, bright eyes troubled and pointy ears splayed. Sequoia spread her small arms wide, inviting the curly-furred dog to crawl into her bunk beside her.
Amelia didn’t understand the sadness that Sequoia felt about suddenly having to share her stars with an unfamiliar society which had been out here long before her. And Sequoia didn’t understand the roiling, tumultuous fervor of Amelia’s religious longing to meet humanity.
But they both felt overwhelmed. And tired. And they held each other. And felt safer in each other’s arms.
Continue on to Chapter 23…