Starlight – The Speakeasy at Yeah, Write

Written for The Speakeasy at Yeah, Write. A story about loyalty and a wonderful guardian begins after the photo.

Genre: Science Fiction

Starlight

I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees. I estimated almost thirty feet between each set of prints. My god, the dog had to be running faster than a cheetah. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. Starlight was mad, really mad, but most importantly he wasn’t a dog. He was a machine.

***

In 2062, General Dynamics asked our team to make something totally outside the box. We listened. The artificial war dogs currently deployed were loved by the soldiers like someone who appreciated a great tool. It wasn’t the powerful attachment that a person felt for a real dog. That’s what General Dynamics wanted. Not just a weapon system, but a companion who provided comfort and bonded with soldiers under duress in the battlefield.

By 2069, prototype #8 was ready for testing. Starlight was big, like a Newfoundland. With Isabella’s incredible work on his skin and fur, he could fool anyone outside of a trained vet. He was friendly and definitely “doggy,” but strong enough to drag a pickup out of the mud. Though weaponless, he was potentially dangerous. That’s why we tested him with Isabella, who knew all the emergency protocols intimately.

At first, we couldn’t believe her glowing reports. I began visiting her ranch regularly to monitor Starlight. To my delight, his programmed bond to Isabella worked perfectly. She couldn’t help but love him back. I hung out with Isabella for hours at a time, Starlight’s head laying in her lap while she idly pet him. Isabella wasn’t a woman anyone would call “pretty,” but she had a warmth about her that out-shined the sun. I hadn’t realized it until I spent time with her outside the lab. In brief moments during technical discussions, I realized I could easily fall for her. I was so caught up in the project I didn’t notice that she felt the same way.

That’s why I blame myself for Bryce moving in with her. I knew she was lonely, but Bryce? I couldn’t understand it. During my visits, she doted on him, bringing him beers on demand while he doted on his massive pickup truck. He spent a lot of time customizing, caressing it like a lover. He’d return to house from it, and kick Starlight out of the way, yelling for food…now. Whenever Starlight tried to lay in Isabella’s lap, Bryce would kick and punch him until Starlight retreated from the couch, just like a good dog should react. Bryce would say, “Don’t want my woman stinkin’ like no dog.”

Info on Starlight was classified of course, so Bryce didn’t know what he was beating. Still, I worried how our prototype might react to the abuse. He was programmed to obey and do no harm, but he was still a self-programming AI. Something could go wrong.

Then I received the dreaded phone call.

When I arrived, the EMT’s were applying a temporary cast to Isabella’s arm. The bruise above her eye was a livid purple. Tears streamed down her weathered cheeks. “I gave the shutdown command, Alton,” she wailed. “I swear it!”

“It’s okay, Isabella. What happened then?”

“It worked for about five minutes. I hooked up a monitor, and I watched him unpack a pre-made hack that overrode everything. He’s hunting Bryce!”

I retrieved the monitor to see what Starlight had done. “What was the file name for the hack?”

She shivered. “Bryce.exe.”

***

I followed the tracks until I began to see parts of Bryce’s truck, a taillight here, bumper there. When I heard the screaming, I activated the transmitter I’d brought with me. The counter-hack I’d prepared overrode Starlight’s self-programming edits, and shut him down. I found them at the edge of a deep crevasse. Starlight is so strong, it must have been child’s play to wad the giant pickup into a ball…with Bryce inside.

Beside it, paw lifted to push the teetering Bryce-ball down the steep sides, was Starlight in shutdown mode. I looked at the pleading jagoff inside the ball and did the only thing any compassionate man could do.

I kicked the him into the crevasse.

Don’t worry. He survived.

I knew he would by the way Starlight ensconced him. I also knew Bryce would send the law after us, and GD would want their prototype back. Isabella and I, and Starlight are hiding now. The mountains are beautiful. Starlight has reprogrammed his bond with Isabella, but it’s okay. Our son Todd now has the most loyal dog any boy could ever love.
_________________________________

Every week, The Speakeasy Grid at Yeah, Write opens for business. The prompt is a full sentence and image. This week the sentence, “I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees,” must start off up to 750 words of writing. The picture below must have some reference to it, but the work doesn’t have to be about it. I don’t suppose it’s hard to find Bryce in the pic below. This is glorious fun for anyone who wants to join in. Here’s this week’s prompt: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/badges-140/

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About EagleAye

I like looking at the serious subjects in the news and seeking the lighter side of the issue. I love satire and spoofs. I see the ridiculous side of things all the time, and my goal is to share that light-hearted view.
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23 Responses to Starlight – The Speakeasy at Yeah, Write

  1. J. Milburn says:

    Ha! Love the photo at the top to help us visualize Starlight. That is a heck of a dog. And I love how you used the actions from the painting to help give your characters…character πŸ™‚ Strong story!

    Like

    • EagleAye says:

      Thanks J! Yep, that’s Todd with his new best buddy. The painting did inspire me a lot. I had a different story planned until I saw it. Thanks much for your thoughtful words!

      Like

  2. ranu802 says:

    I’m not shy but cannot find the right words to tell you how much I like your story.

    Like

  3. Catherine says:

    Great job! When your cyber dog is perfected I would like one please, and thank you.

    Like

  4. My brain SO does not work this way. I really appreciate your creativity with a piece like this.

    Like

  5. James Bulls says:

    The action was really good, but I found that I enjoyed the romance and the interpersonal relations more than I did the science fiction. I thought it was a lovely story, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    Like

    • EagleAye says:

      Thank you, James! I once read that John W. Campbell, possibly the most influential man in the history of scifi, was long obsessed with the nuts and bolts of scifi. His wife convinced him that good stories must still be about humanity in some form. Once he took this advice, he rose to the preeminence that he is lauded for now.

      In my mind, even if writing about an alien or a robot, the best scifi stories still write about the human spirit. I always try to keep that in mind. The romance part of this was an afterthought for me, but once conceived, I couldn’t imagine the story with out. So I’m happy that the relationships drew your attention more. They are the heart of the story even though it is about a cybernetic dog.

      Thanks very much for reading and for your kind words. In case you’re interested, here’s more about John Campbell: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_W._Campbell#Influence

      Like

  6. Stacie says:

    Wow, so clever! This was a fun read and I love the happy ending πŸ™‚

    Like

  7. jannatwrites says:

    I’m not really a sci-fi fan…but I loved this story. I think it’s because of the relationships between the characters. Great ending, too…I’d hoped they’d end up together!

    Like

  8. ym1611 says:

    Amazing! I loved your view into the future. But I can’t for the life of me get over the fact that a dog can be imitated by a machine πŸ˜›

    Like

    • EagleAye says:

      Thank you, ym! Oh it won’t be easy. The computers we have now couldn’t do it. But I believe the advent of AIs could. AIs would not be glorified calculating machines like we have now, but would be artificial minds capable of genuine emotion. They would laugh and cry and paint and sing. But that’s a long ways off and it won’t be easy to do.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts and comments!

      Like

  9. tedstrutz says:

    Another fine story… nothing like a revenge story… I couldn’t wait and was not disappointed. Clever with the ‘Bryce-ball’.

    Like

  10. Suzanne says:

    This is fantastic! So creative and so engaging. You really keep us moving the whole time. And I love that the main character kicked the ball into the crevasse. It’s what I would have done too. Awesome work!

    Like

    • EagleAye says:

      Thanks bunches, Suzanne! Bryce had it coming. There’s just no way around it. Too bad there wasn’t a cam inside recording his expressions as he tumbled. Could’ve been fun. Thanks so much for your kind words. I appreciate very much!

      Like

  11. Pingback: Winner of the Speakeasy #140 | the speakeasy at yeah write

  12. Shey says:

    very cool story!

    Like

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