Wondering if I should check with the others before I did anything, I decided it was most likely Jaclyn, Cassie, Tikki, or Kals and if not, I could probably tell the rest via implant.
In fact, I was being too paranoid already. The most likely possibility was that one of them had opted to use one of the bathrooms outside our suite rather than risking waking everyone else up. The toilet was kind of noisy.
As I walked through the door that led into the main area of the council building, I reflected that if that were true, explaining what I was doing was going to be awkward. Well, if I did find that the footsteps led to one of the other bathrooms, I’d do my best to sneak away before they got out.
The main area of the council building was an open room large enough hold almost everyone in the colony. Even if that was only all of the colony’s adults, that might mean as many as 2000 people. I followed the footsteps across the front of the auditorium, noting the rows of seats to my left. Anything could be hiding there in theory, but my glasses’ thermal imaging didn’t show anything hot enough to be alive.
I reached a short hall on the other side of the auditorium. It continued into another suite like ours, but before that a stairway opened up downward to the right. I followed the steps downward, noting that they appeared to be made of the same white substance as the egg-shaped outside walls. Even before I reached the bottom, I noticed that the thermal footprint remains were more distinct. Halfway down, I heard the first noise. It was a series of high pitched barks—more yips than barks—and then Jaclyn’s voice.
I jumped down the final flight of stairs, landing in front of a closed door, but one with a telltale glow at the bottom of the door. The light was on inside and since I knew who was there, I said, “Jaclyn?”
The door opened. Jaclyn stood in the doorway wearing the pajama version of her stealth suit—a red top with white pants. I remembered programming in the specifications.
She sighed. “I knew someone would notice eventually, but I thought it would be Cassie.”
Then she turned to look behind her. A dog with grayish-brown, curly fur bounded toward me, getting on its hind legs and placing its paws on my stomach. A closer look showed me that it was more fuzzy than furry and the clumsiness of its walk told me that it was more puppy than dog despite its size. More clues came together—the thickness of its limbs, the size of its paws, the resemblance to a terrier.
It sniffed my crotch and then dropped to all fours to consider the smell of my feet. It gave my left foot a lick.
“Wow. Is that what I think it is, and why did you take it in?” I looked around. “You’ve been keeping it in a closet?”
To be fair, it was more of a storage room. It was at least twenty feet wide, maybe larger, filled with boxes, a bowl of water, and bowl of last night’s leftovers.
Her head sunk for a moment, but then she looked me in the eye. “It’s not a closet. Look, I got up early the morning after we killed those things and went out running. It was there where we’d killed them, sniffing around. I know it was dumb, but I couldn’t leave it there. We’d killed its parents and I’ve always liked dogs…”
She shook her head. “This sounds even dumber out loud than when I was imagining explaining it.”
The puppy grabbed my pants leg and started pulling on it. It had a strong grip.
“No! Stop. Over here.” She pointed directly in front of her. It stopped, looked at her, and let go of my pants. Then it sat in front of her. She crouched, scratching it behind the ears, and saying, “Good boy. Who’s a good boy?”
She let the puppy lick her face a couple times, wiping off the spit with her hand. Then she stood up. “He really is a good dog. Dogs at home don’t learn commands that quickly. They should be training them instead of hiding from them. I’ve been hoping to show them, but for now, I just need to take him outside. You want to come along?”
I glanced down at the dog which had already wandered off to the food dish to scarf down a few gobbets of meat. “Sure.”
We brought the dog out to a courtyard off to the side of the auditorium. Since it was surrounded by the building, we didn’t have to worry about the dog running off—though we did have a scare when it darted toward one of the walls, disappearing behind a bush. When we caught up with it, we found it dismembering a creature that appeared to be a cross between a rat and a grasshopper. Rats don’t have six legs or wings, and grasshoppers don’t have fur, but this had both.
“What are you going to do with it?” I asked her as the puppy finished eating and then did its business behind another bush.
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I think the colonists could train them, but you know how big they get. The colonists aren’t going to like the idea. We could bring him home, but…”
I tried to imagine that. It wasn’t as if Jaclyn could keep it in her dorm at the University of Michigan. The best idea would be to keep it in HQ in Grand Lake. I imagined trying to take it for a walk. It wouldn’t be so bad when it was a puppy, but when it was fully grown…
“I hope we don’t bring him home,” I began, but I was interrupted by a message.
It was from Iolan. It was marked important, but if we’d been asleep, it wouldn’t have been urgent enough to wake us up. We’d have gotten the notification after waking. I opened it. It said, “I’m part of the group meeting at Jadzen Akri’s house tonight. Things have gotten… off topic. We’ll all be visiting tomorrow morning. Whatever happens, be cooperative and pleasant. Don’t give anyone an excuse to be angry. It’s not too big a thing. It’s just that there have been a few complaints about your investigations. I’m doing my best to calm people down over here.”
The message ended and I asked, “Did you—”
“Get the message? Yes.” Jaclyn’s mouth was a flat line. “It sounds like a bad time to bring up the dog.”