I reached out to the meteorite, a rocky mass with atypical glowing purple patches, knowing it might be the last thing I ever did on Earth.
It didn’t crash. It landed. It landed in a specific place.
Right in the middle of a major metropolitan area.
The authorities managed to secure and sequester the meteorite before anyone could touch it or get anywhere near it. It had been moving slowly enough for us to track and predict its trajectory With preliminary scans, we determined that this strange new “falling” star wasn’t emitting dangerous levels of any known radiation, or any other energy signatures. It was decelerating, so we were certain it wouldn’t crash.
Then we detected signs of life inside it.
Past the noise of atmospheric friction, past the layers of rock, metal, and frozen methane, we heard a rhythmic thudding pulse that sounded like a heartbeat.
As soon as the meteorite landed, it was immediately moved to an empty warehouse by the docks. Various facilities had been lobbying for the chance to be the meteorite’s ultimate destination. Their representatives arrived onsite and jockeyed for a chance to be the first to study it.
We knew where it came from. And who sent it.
Earth had been receiving communications from a distant alien race for hundreds of years, several hundreds perhaps. But until about a century ago, we didn’t have the means to tease out the signal and start deciphering the messages. A good number were in human languages, some in languages that humanity no longer spoke or used. They eventually invented a written language that they believed would be easy for us to decipher. This meant that the messages were not open broadcasts. They were meant for us. They knew about us, before we started sending messages out into space, before we even began broadcasting signals for earthly use. Then they realized that we weren’t yet capable of hearing them.
They were a dying race, or so they claimed. They might have already been gone by the time we realized they were reaching out to us. We sent responses, but none of the messages we received were in answer to our own. That made sense, we’d only known about them for the past twenty or so years. But as far as we could tell, the messages originated from a star almost thirty light years away.
I aimed to make myself one of the world’s leading experts on them, on the first and thus far only alien species we knew existed. I started my career as a deep sea marine biologist after hearing that the aliens’ description of themselves sounded a lot like some marine life we had on Earth. I was one of those who was convinced that the alien race that sent those messages was dead now, and we would never meet them, for better or worse. But I hoped to see something out there in the void. I joined the astronaut corps almost a year ago, and had just qualified for a mission to a Jovian moon.
But before I could go out to explore space, space came down to greet me.
I was one of several scientists and researchers who studied the meteorite in those first few days in the non-ideal conditions of a dockside warehouse with peeling posters on the walls, international agents patrolling the area, and the general public waiting behind barricades, waiting for us to declare…something.
After chipping off a few surface samples, we aimed to sample the rock’s core, which we believed was hollow. The meteorite was already contaminated with Earth’s many kinds of cooties from dirt to bacteria. So whatever signs of life we found would have to be so complex that we couldn’t deny it belonged to the meteorite and didn’t somehow sneak onto the rock while we weren’t looking. But there was some solid barrier beneath the surface. We couldn’t look past it to the core.
Then, three days after the meteor landed, our linguists and code-breakers deciphered the latest message from the aliens. It hadn’t come from the faraway star where all the other messages had originated. This one came from the meteorite itself.
We were still deciphering the vast database of received messages. Some of the messages were redundant. We’d learn a lot about the aliens—their physiology, their culture, their discoveries. Some were specific messages from individual aliens and seemed to follow less formal patterns of communication. (I always imagined a teenager from Earth awkwardly mumbling through a message he was recording for a faceless alien species out in the cosmos somewhere.)
The message that the meteorite carried was troubling. Centuries ago, by our reckoning, the aliens had attempted to go out into the galaxy and settle on other planets. One of those planets was Earth, in the time of our earliest ancestors. The alien settlers found that their life cycle was incompatible with Earth. The planet was ideal for them, but their continued existence on it would be destructive to the native life—us included. Nevertheless, some were determined to stay. The two factions—the aliens who wanted to stay on Earth and those who wanted to leave—fought for centuries as their home planet rushed to send some kind of aid to those who sought to leave the planet, and find a more suitable world to settle.
Some of our ancient stories about great sea creatures beached or found lurking in the waters were these aliens. They had radial symmetry in their natural state, but could change shape to some extent. In the light of our sun, they appeared in various shades of translucent purple, like the patches on the meteorite—or rather, the pod contained within.
Even while the rival alien factions battled on Earth, the aliens back home believed they might make a peaceful first contact with the quickly maturing human race. The pod was to be this introduction. It contained generic biological material that would begin to organize and coalesce and spark into new life as it traveled toward Earth. We would have a custom-made ambassador. For some reason, perhaps a quirk in its programming, the pod did not come directly to Earth. It stopped on the brink of the solar system, and it joined the orbit of the icy asteroids in the outer belt. It spun around and around, gathering bits of dust, metal, and ice, until it looked like a tiny asteroid. When the last alien settler died, about thirty-some-odd years ago, its death somehow triggered the pod to begin moving toward Earth.
We were given the codes required to open the pod. It would not open on its own. We could choose to open it, or to keep it where it was and open it later, or shoot it back out into space. Whatever was inside was at our mercy, and still, there were some who suspected it could be a trick. Because, in truth, it could have been.
Theories ranging from dire to hopeful were discussed and argued about the pod’s true purpose.
Was it some kind of weapon, or maybe even a terraforming starter seed? Should we destroy it just in case? What if destroying it caused the very destruction and harm that everyone was trying to avoid? What if it released toxins or poisons into the world if we tried to open it, or destroy it? Did we have the know-how and the tools to properly study it, characterize it?
Some were hopefully cautious about what the meteorite’s hollow center might hold. Secrets perhaps to the origin of life. Some were fanatic and devoted to the unearthly rock as if it were the coming of a deity, a saviour.
The world’s leaders convened and discussed moving the pod further from populated areas before opening it, perhaps as far as we could possibly go. They seemed to believe that the moon had a base with facilities that should prove sufficient. I wasn’t sure about that.
But one thing kept coming up in their conversations, just as it came up in conversation around dinner tables, at laboratory benchtops, over office cubicles, between the levels of a bunk bed. The pod had landed on Earth. In the very city that was the current capitol.
It had waited, sleeping and floating around and around for centuries, until humanity was ready to receive it.
The world’s leaders assigned the decision to the global council that oversaw all space-related matters. The council had no idea if opening the pod would have a local effect, a global effect, or even an extra-global effect. As such, they called for a popular planetary vote.
The majority of the people on the planet wanted to keep the pod where it was and open it in place. On Earth.
Whatever happened, we would be in it together.
I was granted the honor and the privilege (or the short end of the stick, as far as some were concerned). I would open the pod and tell the world—show them—what was inside. Assuming whatever it was didn’t kill us all right away.
There were agents standing by and agents suiting up. Fellow members of the science team stood by, already suited and ready. One of them held a hand camera on me, others were ready with various different sample collection kits.
The pod was still in that warehouse. We had really taken the “open in place” mandate literally.
Teeming crowds gathered outside along the barricade that stretched across the entire length of the docks and beyond. News helicopters hovered nearby, keeping just outside of the restricted airspace. We’d kept the warehouse doors closed for the first few days. But they were wide open now.
There were several dogs in the crowd outside. People would later comment on the dogs’ eerie reaction to the pod. None of them were barking. They just craned their necks forward and watched, their bodies still and intent. None pulled at their leashes. None fidgeted or moaned or whined. They just…watched.
I didn’t know any of this at the time. The crowd wasn’t that far away, which was strange, considering I was suited up head-to-toe in protective gear. A hazy purple glow shown through holes and empty patches in the meteorites crust.
I reached out to the meteorite with the glowing purple patches, knowing it might be the last thing I ever did on Earth. The suspicious folks who thought the pod was a weapon might be right. Or I might enter the codes incorrectly and cause the pod to shoot off into space on its own. We monitored for signs of any engine activity, but frankly, we hadn’t been able to detect anything since we first spotted the pod making its way to our planet.
We cleared off enough rock to expose a panel, a plate of silvery smooth metal. I pressed on the metal, hoping my touch would register through my thick gloves. It did, and an image of lines and angles and now-familiar characters shimmered into view. It was the language that the aliens had devised to help us decipher their messages. I entered the code and stepped back when I heard the cracking and crumbling of the rock that clung to the pod. A foot away from the panel, a hole opened, about two feet by two feet.
Nothing, or no one rose out of the opening. I held my breath and stepped toward the pod again. I peeked down through the opening and frowned.
I reached through the opening with both hands.
I didn’t hear the hushed gasps that moved through the crowd when I pulled it out of the pod.
It was a puppy.
She looked just like a chocolate Labrador retriever puppy.
“This is unexpected,” I said.
The puppy looked at me. She wiggled and fidgeted between my hands. Her fur looked slightly slick as if she’d recently been given a bath and hadn’t quiet dried off yet. I was afraid of dropping her. The other researchers converged on the pod, taking images of the inside, collecting air samples, holding up monitors to check for radiation. There was a slight nuclear signal from within, the pod’s power source probably.
I held the puppy against my chest so I could get a better grasp on her. She was still wiggling. But I couldn’t look down at her with my helmet on.
I removed my helmet.
“What are you doing?”
The objections were coming from the agents that were arrayed around the pod and the research team.
After some quick preliminary scans of the pod and the puppy, the other members of the research team took off their helmets. We heard a rushing sound and realized it was the crowd outside, cheering.
I turned to them, the puppy still held against my chest, and for some silly reason, I waved at them.
I’d always dreamed of waving to a cheering crowd as I returned from a mission.
Holding a puppy hardly seemed an equal accomplishment to being the first person to set foot on a moon of Jupiter. But then, I had to remember. This particular puppy was an alien. The first alien “born” on Earth.
I and half the research team piled into a van along with our new guest, and headed to the capitol’s space research institute grounds. Some of the team remained in the warehouse, securing the pod for transport to the institute. We had closed the pod and re-opened it, just to make sure we could access the inside at any time.
We threw every test at the puppy that we could do in the seven hours before our meeting with the representatives of the global council that oversaw the world’s various space programs and initiatives. All the tests were non-invasive. But I called a stop to all testing for the day when I noticed that the puppy seemed tired and somewhat apprehensive after being scanned by the raucous virtual dissector and molecular imager.
I spent the rest of the time playing with her. We fed her artificial milk and water, and monitored her for adverse effects. The only adverse effects she suffered was the puppy’s typical inability to control where and when she peed. After setting the puppy up in a snug pen, with a bowl of water and blankets, I reluctantly left the room. There were cameras surrounding the pen. I watched her on my mobile. She watched me leave, watched the door even after I closed it. I felt a little guilty to be leaving her. But we had a briefing to give.
“Looks can be deceiving,” one of the representatives said. “It could be a weapon, and before anyone points out the comical nature of calling such a harmless-and-helpless-looking creature dangerous, I might point out that we have many such animals on our planet that fit that category. The creature is being touted as a darling by the media. Let the people adore it if they choose. It’s your job to be objective and find out what it really is.”
One of the canine experts answered. “According to preliminary tests, it really is a puppy.”
“I think it was a conscious choice to not mimic us,” I said. “If this had been a human baby, for example, think of what that would mean.”
“That would have been creepy,” one of the researchers said.
But one of the reps caught on to my meaning. “It would mean that the child was a citizen of Earth.” She nodded her head. “It would have had rights and privileges on our planet. That would have put us in a pickle.”
“A pickle they chose to spare us from.”
“Or not. Maybe they didn’t have a choice. We didn’t send them a lot of detail on the physiology of our own species, or even the great apes. We know they’ve been watching us for a long time, and we’ve assumed they know more about us than we want them to, and certainly more than we know about them. But maybe we were wrong. Maybe they didn’t have enough information to make a human.”
“Or maybe they do, but this pod just didn’t get the latest updates.”
After we gave our briefing, the team studying the pod gave theirs. We signed off and some of us went straight to see the puppy. We’d had one of the conference room screens on her during the meetings. She’d slept the whole time. She sagged her stubby tail when she saw us, and jumped up when I approached.
“I think she’s imprinted on you, Jason,” my team leader said. “Don’t know if mammals do that, but if they do, you’re a new mom.”
I smiled and leaned down to pet my new alien friend as the rest of the team bantered.
“It’s weird that they didn’t send a cat.”
“No, it’s not. We would have been suspicious of an alien cat. I’m already suspicious of Earth’s cats.”
“Should we continue being suspicious?”
“We should continue being cautious.”
“They obviously know how to push our buttons. Our…’awww’ buttons.”
“That may be a good sign. They understand our values, at least on some level. Maybe that means they share some of them.”
“It could just mean they are really good at easing species marked for future subjugation into compliance. It’s a smart strategy. No need to send their soldiers and lose lives. We’ll just be ready to enslave.”
“Maybe we let another dog interact with it, study it. Other animals too. See what they do.”
“Why a dog, of all things? What are they playing at?”
“You heard what the pod-team said. This may just be a programmed response. There may be no grand plan, beyond what we had when we sent our first probes out into the cosmos. We just wanted to see what was out there, and if anybody else was out there. And we wanted to start learning about the world beyond the one we were born to.”
“So the first alien born on Earth may be a dog like every other dog. She may just live and die like every other dog, and that’s that?”
I gazed at the tiny puppy. She didn’t seem insignificant.
We had expected the profound, an invasion, or a revelation. A splashy discovery that would forever alter the course of human history. But the profound thing about discovery is that it doesn’t happen in grand moments, but in tiny increments, over grand scales of time.
For weeks, the world watched. We even made the video feed public for a while, so everyone could tune in to the “alien puppy cam.” In the first week of her life on Earth, there was a world-wide contest for what to name her. I was asked to announce the winner at a press conference.
Before either announcement, I came to an understanding with the little girl who had submitted the winning entry.
“We’re not naming her Rainbow Puke,” I announced. “I invoke discoverer’s override.”
“Is there such a thing?” a reporter asked after the polite chuckles died down.
“There is now.”
“What’s her name, then?”
I smiled. “Gliese.”
That was the most exciting announcement regarding the alien puppy that the world would hear for weeks. People loved to watch Gliese trotting around in her pen, being fed, sleeping, even pooping (and being potty-trained).
But even as we continued to study the meteorite that encrusted the pod, the pod itself, and the puppy, the world’s attention began to drop off.
I had been Gliese’s midwife, and now I was her main care-taker. I didnt have to be objective myself. I wasn’t the one studying her. So I gave her a last name too, my last name. On the study documents, after her alphanumeric designation, she was referred to as Gliese Darego. I took apartments on the facility’s campus and brought her home with me, at first for a few hours, then overnight. It was easier once daily testing became weekly testing. Soon, it was as if she was just my dog.
Then one day, I decided to take her to visit the pod that had brought her to us. And that serendipitous trip lead to the biggest discoveries about Gliese and her pod that we had made since the day the pod was opened.
We’d discovered lots of panels and controls, shimmering lines and characters that we understood, but couldn’t get to do anything. When the pod-team allowed me to put Gliese in the pod and see if she reacted, she surprised us all by pawing at the panels and unlocking a database that we hadn’t even known was there. It had information about the star system that the aliens who sent her were from. And characteristics of the local galaxy. Information that was hazy through our scopes and arrays, but were clear and detailed in the pod’s database.
I brought her back again, day after day, but nothing more happened. We kept at it anyway, week after week, and just as she reached half a year of life, she unlocked another database. This one had everything on it about the aliens’ native planets—they inhabited three, and always had so far as their history went back.
The older Gliese got, the more knowledge she was able access. I was officially assigned to study any discovered portion of the complete database having to do with the aliens’ physiology. The global council became keenly interested in making sure that Gliese remained alive and well, at least until we were sure we had the complete database.
I often forgot that Gliese was an alien. Except when we took our weekly trips to the pod. But it was about to get harder to forget. She was past her first year of life when the first occurrence happened. She’d watched me before when I got hurt, stubbed a toe or cut my finger. She’d cock her head sometimes. Once, when I slammed my hand in a door because I was half-asleep, I cried out and she whimpered and came over to comfort me. I could have sworn my hand felt much better after she lay her head on my knee.
That could have been a coincidence, but what happened that spring was not. I was slicing carrots for a picnic dish, and sliced open my finger instead.
Gliese must have heard me curse. I was already at the sink running water over the cut when she trotted in. I looked at her and shook my head.
“I wasn’t paying attention.” I frowned as the bleeding continued. “I think it’s bad actually. I wonder if I should hit the infirmary. Might need stitches.”
Gliese barked. And I pretended to know what she was saying.
“Yeah, lesson learned. I’ll definitely be more careful next time.”
But when I sat down to observe the wound, Gliese jumped up on my legs and licked my bleeding finger before I could stop her. I gently pushed her away and went back to the sink. The slight throbbing faded. The bleeding stopped as the water washed the blood away. I pulled my hand out of the water and examined my finger. It wasn’t hurting, but it felt itchy, fiery, and tight. Before my eyes, the skin knit itself back together again.
There was no scar.
I took Gliese to get her weekly tests early, saying nothing yet to the technician who read out the results.
“She checks out on all the levels, cellular, molecular, atomic. She’s carbon-based. Four nucleotides in her DNA. The usual twenty-some-odd amino acids. She’s got muscle tissue, nervous tissue. Basal genetics are typical. Epigenetics…typical. Et cetera, and so on. Our quantum-level sensors are still crude when it comes to complex organisms, but nothing atypical there either. If I didn’t know she wasn’t from Earth, these tests would not tell me that she wasn’t from Earth.”
I nodded, puzzled. Gliese had obviously done something a normal dog could not do. I had to find some other tests, some other phenomenon to detect.
I had nothing figured out before the second occurrence.
One day, Gliese started barking at particular spots in her play room. It seemed she’d found the cameras. She actually nosed one of them and toppled it. She didn’t destroy it, but she did kick it away with her paw. An act of teenage rebellion, as I saw it.
I told her I would only keep the cameras on for part of the day, when I tested her intelligence with the toys. She seemed to agree to that, and I kept my word. One day I forgot to turn the cameras off, and though there was no indicator light, she knew, and she reminded me with more nosing and an accusatory bark.
I was one of those people who thought dogs were blind to all colors. Studying a mammal—even though my observations were only casual—was new to me. I began to suspect Gliese could see color when she rolled a particular ball toward me during a play-test session. It was brown. She nosed at a brown paper bag. Then she pawed at a window, at her reflection. I thought it was coincidence. Then she nosed my hand and licked my face. She pushed the brown ball at me.
“I get it,” I said, pointing to my hand, to her paw, to the ball. “Brown.”
I looked it up and it turned out that dogs could see color, only a more limited spectrum than even humans could see. I experimented with teaching Gliese to distinguish different colors with the balls: red, blue, green, yellow, purple. When I asked her to bring me a particular shade, she could do it, even with the colors she wasn’t supposed to be able to see. And just to be sure it wasn’t a fluke, that she wasn’t seeing the differences in grayscale, I used other colored objects to test her.
My colleagues who were the experts in canine bioscience checked Gliese’s retinal scans for signs of the types of cells that should allow her to see the way humans see. They didn’t find any. As usual, and as always, Gliese appeared to be a regular dog.
She loved spending time with other dogs, though that didnt happen often. I could swear she was teaching them things. Not tricks, like the color separation, but lessons about higher pursuits.
I joked with her about how extraordinary she was, and how I expected to come home one day to find her walking on the walls. A week later, she tugged on my sleeve, and when I came to look, she jumped onto the wall of the living room, and walked up to the ceiling. I was still agape and staring at the ceiling when she jumped up at my chest and started me back to my senses.
Until that day, I hadn’t really believed there was anything truly extraordinary about my extraterrestrial.
I had a boss on my other projects, but when it came to Gliese, I answered directly to the global council representatives. Though the requirements for reporting on Gliese’s every move had been relaxed since it seemed evident she was like any other dog, there was still a mandate in place to report all unusual occurrences regarding the pod and the dog.
I reported my observations up the chain, but we kept the discoveries out of the public eye. We couldn’t figure out how Gliese was doing all the things she was doing. There weren’t any special enzymes to be discovered in her saliva. She didn’t have any atypical organs or glands that could be secreting some liquid or airborne healing compound. She didn’t have anti-gravity technology attached to the bottoms of her paws.
It was accepted that she had an awareness and understanding beyond that of even the most intelligent dog. But only a handful of people knew about her most special abilities. We were all sworn to keep it confidential until we could understand.
There was an accident at the lab. It was the pod. The pod was powered in part by a nuclear propulsion reactor, and somehow a lone researcher working with the pod triggered a radiation burst. As he was being wheeled off to the infirmary, he admitted that he’d been trying to access more data in the pod, to see if it could be done without Gliese’s help.
The researcher—a man named Cas whom I’d met once or twice—didn’t have the authority to make such a decision. No one above him had authorized it. He was certain that we’d lost part of the database before a failsafe activated to contain the radiation and preserve the rest of the pod. The pod closed automatically. I was informed and asked to bring Gliese. According to what we now knew about the pod’s functions, it would clean up the radiation itself and be available to re-open once it was safe. At that point, Gliese could go in and try to retrieve more data.
By the time we arrived, the entire pod bay had been locked down for analysis and scrubbing, to make sure that any radiation that spread beyond the pod was cleaned up. The accident must have been more serious than it was first thought to be.
We passed by the still-quarantined pod bay to go visit the researcher, Cas, who’d had the accident. I had Gliese on a leash, as i always did, though I didnt hold it tight. So when someone opened the door to the infirmary room, Gliese broke free of my grasp and dashed inside. She jumped up with her forelegs on the injured man, who had radiation burns along the entire left half of his body. She bit him, hard in his left thigh, and she didn’t let go even when the guards outside the room rushed in and pointed their stun guns at her.
I rushed in, and threw myself on top of her, trying to guard her from the guns, and to get her off the poor dying man. It took a tense several seconds before I managed to coax her into letting go, but I had a feeling that she only let go because she was done doing whatever it was she was aiming to do.
The man who lay in the cot, his skin already raw and red, whose leg was now bleeding from the puncture wounds that Gliese’s teeth had left, was in too much pain to scream or writhe. He didn’t even groan. I just saw a tear slip from his eye before pulling Gliese out of there as doctors rushed in.
He was critical, already blind in his left eye by the time he was wheeled into the trauma care room, nauseous and bleeding. He had received a lethal dose of neutron radiation. He should have had no more than a week to live. But after Gliese bit him, something changed with Doctor Cas.
At first there were whispers and rumors about how Gliese had taken vengeance on the researcher for tampering with her pod. I had to let them place her in an isolation room. I thought she would be afraid, or at least that she would worry. From the monitors arrayed outside the room, I expected to see her pacing, jumping up on the wall, barking. I’d forgotten again that she wasn’t an ordinary dog. She sat calmly, first propped on upright forelegs. Then she relaxed and sat all the way down, resting her head on her paws, but keeping her eye on the door. She almost looked expectant. And I had a feeling, a hope, about what she was expecting.
It only took twenty-four hours for Cas’s condition to improve, then reverse altogether. He’d been dying. He was now recovering. His internal organs rallied. The blisters on his skin healed and vanished. His body didn’t really heal the way that ordinary injured tissue heals. It was regenerated. Made like new.
That’s why he was able to stand with us—with Gliese and me—before the global council representatives. We were in the conference room again, facing a wall of monitors dialed in to the various reps.
“Everything she’s done has been to help us,” I said.
One of the representatives crossed his arms. “Why? Was she programmed that way? Did they give her a directive?”
“No…we did.” I glanced down at Gliese. “We’ve treated her well—for the most part. Cared for her. Loved her. Maybe she loves us back.”
“That’s all good and well. But Doctor Darego, love is not enough.”
“I think she knows that, madam,” Cas said. “That’s why she bit me.”
I gave him a sideways glance. “You deserved it.”
Cas laughed, catching my meaning. He deserved to be healed. Gliese had thought so too. But he also deserved to be admonished.
The representatives did not share our jokey mood. “But for a moment there,” the one with the crossed arms said, “we thought she’d turned against us. She’s demonstrated that she has the ability to overpower us if she chose to.”
I frowned. I felt a sinking in my gut, as I realized where the conversation was headed. I should have already known. I didn’t know what to say, or to ask. I fell back on my training on formal meeting protocol. “What is the council’s decision?”
There were some pressed lips and some shuffling of papers. No one wanted to be the one to say it.
“She can’t remain on Earth,” someone said at last. “It’ll be safer to take her up to the moon. The pod too. We’ll continue—”
“We don’t have the resources on the moon that we do here. And frankly, sir, Earth’s people chose for her to be here.”
“Choice isn’t a one-time event, Doctor. We have the option to change our minds if the circumstances under which we made our original decision changes.”
“She hasn’t done anything threatening. All of her special abilities have been neutral or beneficial.”
“I understand. But there may be another accident.”
“We caused that accident, sir,” Cas said. “That is…I did. If anyone should be sent to the moon, it should be me.”
“The pod landed on Earth,” I said. “And I believe that it and Gliese need to stay on Earth. Her abilities may not work on the moon. There may be something in Earth’s air, it’s atmosphere. Some nuance that we don’t yet know how to detect.”
“The gestalt,” Cas said. He moved his hands back and forth as if molding the shape of a sphere. “The whole thing altogether.”
“As you just pointed out, Doctor, you don’t know how Gliese is doing what she’s doing. So you can’t be sure that she needs be on Earth to do it.”
“In the absence of our own proof, is there anything in the pod’s database that supports your claims?” the more reasonable of the reps asked.
“Not yet, madam.”
“If it turns out that there is, we can always bring Gliese and the pod back down to Earth.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Doctor Cas’s shoulders stiffen. He knew as well as I did that it wasn’t so easy to just jaunt from Earth to the moon and back.
“This is all my fault,” Cas said after the meeting. “I read something in the database. I thought it was instructions on how to get in. I got ahead of myself. I knew I should have gotten clearance.” He sighed.
We were in my apartments in the den, eating burgers and fries. We needed the energy after the two-hour meeting with the council reps.
I shook my head. “They just wanted a reason. If it ended with her recognizing colors and understanding human speech, being just a bit smarter than every other dog on the planet, they might have tolerated it.” I glanced down at the dog who sat beside me, happily chomping a beef patty. “But you went too far with the healing saliva and the walking on walls, didn’t you?”
“Whatever she looks like,” Cas said, “whatever the tests say, she’s an alien. She’s a wild card.”
“Maybe we should keep an open mind. The council hasn’t voted yet. The reps may be off on what their bosses are actually thinking.”
“I prefer to keep my mind slightly ajar.”
I raised a brow and peered at Cas.
“If I keep it all the way open, anything might fly in.”
I chuckled even though that feeling still lay in the pit of my stomach. There were some things that were too big for one person to control.
“She’s still got secrets to tell, doesn’t she?” Cas said.
“They’re not secrets. They’re just discoveries we haven’t made yet.”
“They’re not wrong to be cautious. They’ve compartmentalized the information that’s being uncovered. Keeping all the offshoot projects separate—did you know they’re building an advanced array to try and contact the aliens that sent the pod? But this—she—is something they can’t control.”
Gliese and I both gazed at Cas.
“She’s not the only thing they can’t control. I heard about this maverick who tried to break into the pod’s complete database.”
“They haven’t considered that this is her home,” I said. “She’s an earthling, born and raised, just like you and me.”
“The global council doesn’t have the luxury to consider details like that.”
“Maybe, but we do. I’ll keep fighting to keep Gliese on Earth.”
I knelt down and looked Gliese in the eyes.
“If I can’t stop them from sending you, I’ll go with you. To the ends of the Earth…and beyond.”
Gliese rose. She walked to the small globe that I had standing on the middle shelf of my living room bookcase. It had been a high school graduation gift from my mom. Over the years, she made a theme of it by giving me maps and atlases of Earth, the solar system, the known universe.
Gliese jumped up on the bookcase with her forelegs, carefully, so as not to disturb the books. She gave the globe a gentle lick and whimpered.
I felt my breath catch as she padded back over to me. She put a paw on my knee. She gave a gentle bark and a nod of her head. I imagined that I understood what she was saying.
To the ends of the Earth…and beyond.
Copyright © 2017. Story by Nila L. Patel. Artwork: “Jason and the Meteorite” by Sanjay Patel.