Lucky had trouble sleeping that night, there was something in the air that just wouldn’t let him settle. He paced the house, walking from one window to another and peering out into the darkness of the streets. The fur between his shoulder blades rose and he shuddered. It felt like there were a hundred predators staring back at him. A deep rumbling growl vibrated through his chest. His right ear twitched backward as he heard a sound on the stairs.
He couldn’t bring himself to look away from the window. Other hairs along his spine began to rise, making the already large dog look larger still. Girl’s soft steps approached and she put one hand on Lucky’s head. He gave a low woof, more breath than sound, and shuddered again.
“What is it, Lucky?” Girl asked, her voice was as unsteady as he felt.
“I wish I knew.” He admitted, his tail lowering behind him.
“Is it time?”
Lucky shuddered again and was about to speak when the klaxons went off. He nearly wanted to howl along with the shrill, piercing siren of sound.
**VIRAL INTRUSION DETECTED!!**
**ANTIVIRAL PROTOCOLS ENACTED!!**
Brave and bold he may be, but the bellowing voice and the loud alarm had his tail curling between his legs and his body dropping a bit lower, instinctively making a smaller target out of himself. Over the jarring sound of the alert, Lucky could hear the familiar ‘voice’ that had started talking to him after he saw the grass-words.
**CALCULATING ATTRIBUTES AND TRANSCRIBING SKILLS!!**
The voice was exceptionally loud and Lucky’s ears fell back to rest against his skull. Then the voice softened.
Lucky felt something inside himself wrench and he yelped as his legs collapsed out from under him. Girl groaned and collapsed next to him.
The shaggy dog whined piteously and climbed unsteadily to his feet. The alarm was still going off, but it sounded like it was moving off. His head felt like it had been split in half and every bit of his body ached. “Are you okay, Girl?”
She whimpered and Lucky nuzzled her cheek gently. Her eyes weren’t open and while she wasn’t resting easily, she didn’t seem to be injured.
Man came stumbling down the stairs, nearly falling down the last few. “ISSA!” He screamed over the klaxon as it began to swell again. He moved unsteadily as he approached Lucky and Girl, but he came quickly. “Is she alright?”
“She’s not conscious.” Lucky said. “But I think she’s okay.”
“Good, good.” He murmured as he checked her over. After a couple of seconds, his hands stilled. “Lucky?” His pine-colored eyes shifted to meet Lucky’s.
“Yes. I can talk.” The dog nosed as his Girl again. “I should go outside and see if I can figure out what’s going on.” He looked between Man and Girl. “I don’t want to leave her.” He admitted.
Man looked out the window into the darkness. He shuddered. “There is definitely something out there.”
Lucky’s hackles still hadn’t gone down. He heaved a sigh. “Will you lock the dog door after I leave?”
Still looking bewildered, Man nodded. “I’ll stay with Isobel. You, uh, be careful, Lucky.”
“When I return, we will talk about what happened tonight.” Despite the pain in his body, Lucky led Man to the back door and slipped outside. He heard Man lock the doggy door and felt slightly better about leaving Girl behind, but it still ate at him as he loped toward the gate. He leapt over it and nearly yelped at the pain of his landing. Whatever had happened when the soft voice spoke to him, it had hurt.
None of the neighborhood dogs were outside, but he could smell Quick still sleeping in his tree. Lucky moved slowly through the darkness, the white in his fur almost glowing in the streetlights. He kept his eyes moving, looking for anything out of place, and his nose was constantly testing the air, seeking unknown smells. He patrolled the streets quietly, but could find nothing amiss.
There was a sense of wrongness to the night, but he could find nothing concrete with his real senses. Discouraged, he trotted over to Lobo’s gate and nosed it open. As it swung shut behind him, Lucky leapt up onto the back porch. It was a tight fit slipping through Lobo’s doggy door and he barely managed it. He felt all of his muscles had been torn and his bones bruised, but he refused to give into the pain. Lobo was awake and watching out the living room window when Lucky padded into the room behind him.
“Lobo.” He woofed softly.
The husky’s liver colored ears flicked back. “Lucky, what’re you doing here?” He didn’t turn from the window.
“I was wondering if you heard the bells and voices.”
“I didn’t hear anything.” Lobo admitted, his blue eyes never leaving the window.
“Really? Nothing about antivirus protocols and system initializations?”
“Then what are you doing?”
Lobo’s ears flicked back and laid against his skull. “I feel something.” He admitted, speaking slowly. “Something looming out there in the darkness.” He shivered. “Something vile.”
“I felt the same way earlier. There’s something coming, but I can’t figure out what it is. There was an alarm and a voice saying that there was an intrusion or something and that they were doing antiviral protocols.” Lucky joined him at the window, looking out into the darkness. “Then another voice said the system was initializing. Then it detected an anomaly and adjusted attributes or something.” Lucky shook out his fur, trying to settle himself. “Whatever this system did, it hurt.” Lucky admitted. “You didn’t hear any words?”
“Did you see any grass screens or anything?”
“Where’s your Man?”
Lucky huffed out a breath and glanced at Lobo. “Are you going to be okay here on your own?”
Lobo barely hid a whine as he responded. “I’ll be okay. I’m more worried about my Man.”
“I’m worried about Girl too, but she should be safe with my Man right now. Listen, Lobo, if anything happens, you’ll be safe with us.”
Lobo finally tore his gaze away from the window to look at Lucky. There was something in his bright blazing eyes that made Lucky take a sliding step sideways away from him. The husky turned his attention back to the window. “I will be with my Man.”
There was a finality to his words that made Lucky swallow hard. The larger, multicolored dog turned and walked back toward the doggy door in the back. “Take care of yourself, Lobo.”
The red husky didn’t answer as Lucky wriggled his way out the smaller doggy door. He made his way through the oddly still night back to his own home, still sniffing for anything out of place. There was nothing, no sign of anything wrong other than the unnatural stillness of the night.
He hopped up onto the porch and went to the window, letting out a soft bark to get his family’s attention. The Man quickly opened up the door.
“We were waiting for you. Issa was filling me in on what was going on.” Man said.
Girl was curled up on the sofa and Lucky was quick to jump up next to her and nuzzle her cheek. “How are you feeling?” He asked.
“I’m okay.” She said, scratching at his ears. “I heard voices.”
“I did as well.” Man said.
“Do you have grass-words now?”
“Grass-words?” Man sounded puzzled.
Girl softly stroked Lucky’s head as she explained what the dog had seen to her father. She even showed him the notes she had taken the day before. “I have a screen as well. Dad, do you have one?”
“How do I check?”
“Think about attributes.” She said.
Lucky could see Man’s eyes looking over something in the air in front of him and knew the answer before Man said, “I have screens. So what do we do now?”
Girl looked at me and was quiet for a few moments before she answered her father. “Now, we survive.”
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Hi! My name is Skwrepb (pronounced Jen, I swear). I'm a stay at home mother of three with not enough time on my hands. I've been writing since I could hold a pen and I have so many stories to tell!
I'm an avid reader and The Wandering Inn is what brought me to Royal Road. I have been devouring stories here ever since.