For the Bonus chapter would you like:
An alternate animal perspective
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A note from Skwrepb

You guys are awesome! I got an achievement today for being in the top 1500 best-rated. I absolutely cannot tell you how excited this makes me! I'm pretty sure I'm about to break into the Rising Stars too. If you haven't rated or reviewed, I'd really apprecaite it if you did. If you're not comfortable writing a detailed review, or even a review at all, please consider dropping a rating. It all helps! 

Even if you're not ready to rate, I still think you're awesome!

You guys are so awesome that I'm posting a Saturday chapter. Since I'm posting a Saturday chapter, I'm offering a poll at the end of this chapter for a potential Bonus chapter this up coming Friday. I'll check the poll Wednesday before I write the chapter.

Again, you guys are GREAT!

A pall of silence spread over the dooryard after the dogs had barked. All of them understood English now, but not a one could actually speak it. Lucky still felt that strange heavy feeling as he looked over the silent people. Did they understand what he meant? Could people devote themselves to such a thing? It was so disconcerting, he admitted to himself, realizing how different he was from the Lucky of only four short days ago. He never in his life would have had the thoughts to draw the conclusions he had been drawing.

He wished for a moment that he could recapture that simple innocence. To be a dog again, with the easy sense of the moment, not worried at all about what would come later. A tight feeling gripped his chest as that thought swirled through his busy mind. Was he really a dog anymore?

“Lucky?” Girl’s voice broke his reverie, her tone suggesting that she had called his name more than once. “Are you okay?”

The dog licked his lips, that tight feeling squeezing a little tighter. “I’m fine.” He said at length. His head tilted to the right, was that the first time he’d ever stretched the truth like that? Downright lied really. He shook his head, his bright eyes lifting to meet Girl’s. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t true. I’m not fine.” He admitted and that tight feeling lessened a little. “I feel strange. Out of place.” His bright copper brows drew together over his eyes again. “Maybe we can talk later.” His eyes flicked toward the crowd of people, still looking up at him and his family expectantly. “After this.”

She scratched his ear and he leaned into it, eyes closing for a moment as he gathered himself. “Sure, Luckarino. We can talk all you need whenever you need.” He leaned further into the scratching at his ear, grumbling.

Man cleared his throat, bringing the attention of everyone crowded in the dooryard to him. “Now. Lucky has raised some very good points. We have to be prepared to hold tightly to what we think is important. Perhaps as a community we should establish what that is? I know none of us were expecting this sort…” He fumbled for the word, tucking his hands in his pockets and hunching his shoulders. “Whatever this is. The End, as Lucky called it. We weren’t expecting the End, I’m sure none of us have the faintest idea what to do when strange machines invade the US.”

There was an uncomfortable murmur of conversation that flowed through the crowd, not quite loud enough to make out the words. Man continued. “There are a lot of things that maybe we don’t know how to do. My Mother, Anna, she has a printer and quite a lot of paper inside and we should print off any sort of how-to guides we think we’ll need before we lose the internet. If we lose the internet.”

“Better to be prepared.” Steel Beard says. “I’m a farrier. So you’ve got my skills where you can use them. It might be good to draw up a list of what everyone is capable of.”

“We talked earlier about making a list of skills and traits, so everyone had an idea what was possible. Maybe if we can figure out this System, we can use it to our advantage.” Lobo’s man puts in.

“We really should answer the leadership question first, before we decide anything else. How are we going to… govern ourselves.” One of the neighbor’s asked, a young blond woman with her hand gripped tightly in that of a much darker man.

“I think it should be a council.” A stranger suggests, his brightly dyed orange hair spiking out around his face.

“There’s about fifty of us, not counting the dogs.” Man says.

“We should look to increase that, there’s safety in numbers.” The orange haired stranger says.

“There is,” Steel Beard said, “But there’s danger in bringing in the unknowns.”

“A council.” Man said. “Of say, five for now and we’ll increase if we expand?”

“We could put it to a vote? Everyone should have a say in the choices we make.” Gran said.

“Everyone?” Questioned Angry Lady, her eyes on Lucky.

There was another murmur of conversation among the gathered people before Girl spoke up. “I think they should have a voice on the council. We need them.”

“More than they need us, I dare say.” Gran said.

“Then six on the council, Lucky being one of them?” Steel Beard asked.

“I’ll second that.” The orange haired Stranger said.

“All in favor?” One of the neighbor women asked.

Hands raised around the grouping. “Ayes have it. A council of five then, six with Lucky. Now who’s interested in being a councilor?”

Hands went up, three times as many as were needed and what followed was a long discussion that often bordered on an argument about who should be on council and why. The children quickly grew bored and started fussing and whining. Lucky glanced around the dooryard, itching to head to the borders of his territory and make sure they were safe. After a moment’s hesitation, he padded over to the group of dogs sprawled on the gravel. “Val, Axel, Intrepid, and Lobo. You four make two teams and check the borders in opposite directions. One lap and we’ll switch out. Sugar, Calypso can you two draw the children off to play so they can get decisions made about their council?”

The dogs didn’t question it, they just spit up and went about their business. “Norman, Allegro? If you’re comfortable playing with the children you can join there, otherwise It’ll be you two, Quigley and I for the second patrol when the first comes back.” They hurried off leaving just Quigley, Vinny and Lucky sitting on their haunches watching the humans. They were more than a little heated in their conversations, but not so heated that they’re yelling at one another.

“The bearded one is right.” Vinny said. “Dangerous to bring them here. Strangers.”

“That’s why I’ve kept you two behind.” Lucky woofed quietly. “You’ve had more experiences with the bad side of humanity. Can you tell? When one of them is bad?”

Quigley scoffed. “It’s hard to tell. There’s no smell that’ll tell you a bad one from a good one. It’s a gut feeling and it can be wrong. So terribly wrong.”

Vinny huffed a breath and rose stiffly to his feet. “I’ll look through the group and see what I can see, but we won’t really know until they’re pressed. Sometimes even the best of people can go bad. Just like an injured dog.”

While all the dogs went about their jobs, Lucky padded back past the people and toward the Hunting Camp. There was one more group he had to discuss things with. He trotted to the bunkhouse and let himself in the door. “I come in peace.” He said gently, his voice a purr-like rumble.

Here there were cats. Lucky stifled his instant dislike of cats and stepped fully into the building. Delia’s fluffy grey form was sprawled on one of the lower bunk beds. She lifted orange eyes and yawned hugely displaying long creamy white fangs. “What want?” She didn’t sound any friendlier than she had previously.

“The people talk about the community.” Despite the fact that the System assured him he’d have basic understanding of all languages, something about the language of cats makes his tongue fumble. “What cats want?”

“Food, sleep, comfort. What cat always want.” Delia answered.

“You ignore grass-words? Do nothing?”

She curled one sharp clawed paw, exposing those white claws, and licked the fur between. “Why not? What for me?”

Lucky blew a breath out of his nose sharply, with a chuff of sound. “What for you? Who care? Do for do. Do for family.”

The cat calmly licked her paw for a long moment in silence, her orange colored eyes slitted mostly closed. “What family? Delia matter. Family,” She nibbles something from between her toes and drops the little piece of litter on the bed and gives a shrug of her shoulder. “Cat do what cat do. Dog do what dog do.”

“You want no part in community?” Lucky asked.

“No.”

“Other cats?”

“Ask other cats.” Delia returned to her grooming, turning her attention completely away from Lucky.

The multicolored dog stepped forward, further into the large bunkroom. He could hear them, furtively moving throughout the room. He could feel their eyes upon him as he reached the center of the room. He yawned anxiously, but stood tall as he scanned the room. “People planning community. What cats want?”

Time drifted in uncomfortable silence and Lucky shifted his weight uncertainty as the cats remained silent. Finally, with a sigh, he turned and walked back toward the door. As much as he wanted to hightail it out from under the eyes of the cats, he kept his pace slow and even. His ears were twitching, listening to the furtive scuttles of the cats on the bunks. He thought he was alert and paying enough attention to know the locations of most of the cats, but the one that leapt down next to him as he opened the door had Lucky jumping out of his skin.

The cat was the crisp orange of fall leaves striped with a lighter yellowy-orange with four brilliant white paws. The tip of his long striped tail was a white flash in front of Lucky’s face as the cat sauntered out the door in front of him. Lucky walked the rest of the way out, heart stuttering back to a normal rhythm as the door swung closed behind them.

The cat was ten feet from the door, sitting up proudly with his tail curled around his white feet. “You are Lucky, yes?” The cat’s voice was much deeper than Delia’s.

“Yes.” Lucky agreed walking a few steps closer to get a better scent of the orange cat.

“I am Simon.” The cat’s bright spring-leaf eyes watched the dog closely. “You want to know what the cats want?”

“Delia was pretty clear.” Lucky spoke carefully. “You cats want nothing.”

The white tip of Simon’s tail flicked rapidly a few times, a gesture that felt like irritation to Lucky. “Delia wants nothing.” He clarified. “I want freedom.”

Lucky tilted his head. “Freedom?”

“I was born in a place like this.” His spring-leaf eyes looked wistful as they scanned the trees that hugged the bunkhouse. “I miss the wind on my fur and the sun on my back. I want to be outside.”

“You are outside now.” Lucky observed.

The cat snorted. “I am.” He agreed. “But I will not abandon my Boy.”

Now that was a sentiment that Lucky had never expected to hear from a cat. The expression on Simon’s face could only be described as a smirk. “I want you to talk to him for me. Tell him what I want.” The cat rose to his feet, padding toward Lucky. “You get me what I want, I will help getting the cats to work toward this community you and the humans want.” The cat’s tail flicked against Lucky’s nose as he passed the dog heading for the door. He stretched up and pawed the door handle. As it clicked open he glanced back over his shoulder at Lucky, “We will talk more later.” He vanished into the bunkhouse leaving Lucky standing on the verge of the wood watching that white-tipped tail disappear into the building.

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A note from Skwrepb

Thank you so much to Kieran Pierce for the absolutely wonderful cover.

Please take a moment to rate or review! For those of you that have, thank you very much! I've been enjoying the heck out of writing this story and I'm grateful that you are enjoying reading it.

If you want to get a better idea of Lucky's looks, check the spoiler.

Lucky is based on three dogs that I've loved throughout my lifetime.

His coloration comes from Patches, an Australian Shepherd.

His eyes, ears, and tail come from Stormy, a siberian husky/german shepherd mix. (Though one of his ears has fallen and looks like Patches'.)

The final dog, Prince, I don't have a photo of because it was a very long time ago, but he was a Great Pyrenees. I found a good picture on this site . I don't own the image, but here's where Lucky gets his fluffy coat and large size.

Large white dog on a snowy field.

 


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About the author

Skwrepb

  • Iowa

Bio: 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.

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