Drawing of Birder Collie, Oliwia Czyzak | Source
July 29, 20XX
I received a message from Elijah, a good friend of mine.
‘Dr. Reiner, please. Come to Green Paws, ASAP.’ - Elijah
He asked me to visit him at his pet refuge. Being his top veterinarian choice – even if it was more of a pro bono one – I went to his office. At first glance, it was not anything out of the ordinary. Elijah usually wrote or called me when he needed advice about taking care of a homeless cat or dog he just had picked out of the street. Nevertheless, the look he had on his face when he opened the door for me was slightly worrying.
‘Thank God you arrived, Dr. Reiner. You’re not going to believe this.’
‘Don’t mention it, Eli. What’s going on?’
‘Please, come with me. And shut the door.’
Something was not right. Elijah was not that given to secrecy. Even when he had to rescue a baby crocodile that was stuck in a neighbor’s home drainage, he was able to be perfectly honest to me. Right now, his elusiveness was intense enough to make me think he was hiding an alien in the room next door. His profuse sweating, certainly, didn’t help.
When he opened the door and invited me to step in, though, I did not see a single thing that merited that kind of fear. It was just a perfectly healthy, cute Border collie that was not supposed to be on a refuge for abandoned animals. He was sitting in the consulting room’s bed, in a way so regal and detached that, apart from showing that he was well trained, he was fine.
‘Is this your veterinarian friend, Elijah? The one you said you fully trust?’
Well, at least until he started to talk in very fluent English.
Elijah shut the door behind me.
‘I know, I know, Dr. Reiner. He was sitting in front of the door when I opened the refuge this morning.’
I got closer to the room’s bed, cleaning the dust out of my glasses as I looked at our visitor. I was experienced enough to know that Border Collies were very intelligent… but smart enough to speak?
‘What… what’s your name, mister…’
Cookie. The name was engraved on a bone-shaped plate on his collar.
‘My name is not important, Dr. Reiner. I am an emissary from one of the largest empires in the galaxy. And even though I know my current form can be deceiving, I can assure you that I have come with terrible news.’
One of the largest empires in the galaxy, he said.
This was going to be a most perplexing week.
August 04, 20XX
After a few days, it was evident that our recent guest was a box full of surprises.
Mr. Cookie – he disliked that name but, given he was still reluctant to tell us his true name – introduced himself to us as one of the Temrid Empire’s most important advisors, and one of the closest to Emperor Humgran II himself. Whether his story was actually believable or not, I agreed with Elijah to do some research and analysis to him in order to assess how was he able to speak in such a coherent way.
Sadly, our findings didn’t achieve anything. Apart from a heightened activity in his frontal lobe – presumably because of his eloquence – and his good physical shape, Mr. Cookie gave us the impression of being a normal dog.
Even a thorough exam of his vocal cords didn’t produce abnormal results. The laryngoscopy we applied to him revealed that his cords just made the usual work a dog’s phonation does – to our instruments, Mr. Cookie was simply barking in a more structured way.
How were we able to understand him with such precision was, for the moment, out of our reach. Elijah and I agreed, again, to send the results of our research to a biology lab in Montana where he assured me they could understand the… strange data we collected with enough secrecy.
‘We’re losing valuable time with these exams, Dr. Reiner. You should take me to your leaders immediately.’
It was impossible not to smile because of Mr. Cookie’s naiveté. In that regard, at least, he was very close to other dogs.
‘I trust that you have been in touch with human politics, Mr. Cookie. And that you’re perfectly aware of our somewhat skeptical nature.’
‘I am, Dr. Reiner. Your reluctance to accept the truth at first glance is simultaneously one of your greatest strengths and one of your worst weaknesses. But the Temrid Empire doesn’t send a messenger in times of dire need so that its… vessel gets examined.’
Mr. Cookie’s honesty gave away something about him that I wasn’t able to pick immediately.
‘Have you heard about the Kyran menace, Dr. Reiner?’
‘Not that I can recall, Mr. Cookie. Does it have something to do with… your message?’
Mr. Cookie laid down in the bed, with his paws extended through the stretcher’s borders. I could sense some kind of strange ominosity in his eyes.
‘The Kyran are the greatest danger to stability in the whole Virgo Supercluster as we speak, Dr. Reiner. Indigenous forms of what you know as the planet Ross 128 B, located on what you know as the Virgo Constellation. You could qualify them as insectoid lifeforms, but in truth, they’re even more than that. They’re antagonistic, well organized and with a tendency to silently invade and reproduce themselves in other planets until their population is high enough to attempt to conquer them. And they have fixated their aims on Earth.’
This diagnosis was escalating quickly. Quite removed from my profession and skills.
‘And you’re sharing this with me because…’
Mr. Cookie sat again on the stretcher, in an effort to make himself even more ominous.
‘I’m telling you this because we have enough evidence to believe that the Kyran have already infiltrated the planet and that they’re creating a hive in the Verkhoyansk region of the country that you call Russia. The current government isn’t aware of this, and neither does the scientific community of your planet at large. According to the usual Kyran reproduction rate, that hive will have a population of 36 billion drones in approximately fourteen years. More than enough to completely overrun the average defense capabilities of your world.’
I wasn’t able to tell anything to Mr. Cookie. And he knew about it.
‘Now you know why you have to take me to your leaders, as you’re so fond of saying… ASAP, Dr. Reiner.’
August 18, 20XX
I have never liked talking about work in my free days.
However, if you are able to meet an astronomer in a family barbecue, you cannot pass an opportunity like that.
‘Hey, Brandon! How have you been, darling?’
My cousin, Charlie, was as adorable as ever. I think I was probably the first person in the family to discover his sexual identity; not that it mattered that much. He still grew to be one of the best pediatricians in Boston, though he sometimes had troubles with certain parents because of it. People too conservative or too old-fashioned to let their kids enter the practice of a gay doctor, but not as much as to let them go to Sunday’s Mass with an even kinkier priest. Nevertheless, Charlie built a steady income of clients as per his love of medicine and the quality of his work.
I always felt his hugs were the most peace-instilling thing ever.
‘As good as a man grilling meat and sausages can be, Charlie. And this is…?’
‘Oh, I’m sorry! I should introduce you guys. Terry, he’s my cousin Brandon, he’s one of the best veterinarians in town… and I’m not saying it because he’s family’ - after a little laugh and a chuckle, he continued – ‘Bran, he’s my boyfriend Terry, and apart from being an astronomer, he’s the brightest star of my sky.’
Charlie was always a fan of bombastic introductions.
Terry’s line of work immediately piqued my interest.
‘Nice to meet you, Terry. Do you work on an observatory, a university or…’
‘Pleasure’s all mine, Brandon. I’m just working in the BU’s Department of Astronomy as a teacher, and I’m also part of the Astronomical Society as well.’
Maybe Charlie’s boyfriend was the leader that Mr. Cookie had to talk with, after all.
After a few drinks and a lot of barbecue, I finally was acquainted enough with Terry to ask a few questions in the living room – hopefully, not making Charlie jealous in the way. He seemed too distracted talking with Mom and Dad to care about it, though.
‘So… Tell me, Terry, are you working on any kind of research right now? Besides your teaching duties, of course.’
‘Well, you could call it research, yes. Nothing too elaborate. One of my students is doing a thesis on the Virgo Supercluster and the possibilities of finding life there.’
Too much of a coincidence.
‘Really? I was just watching a TV show about it yesterday. I remember they talked about a planet in there that could harbor life…’
Not that I was going to tell him a talking dog informed me of a life-changing fact, of course.
‘That would be probably Ross 128 B, yeah.’
‘I think so, yeah. But what are the chances?’
‘If you ask me… Pretty low. The planet is within the habitability range of the star it orbits, yes, and its temperature, while it can be quite hot, might allow the presence of liquid water. But it’s a stretch, and only certain kinds of lifeforms could live there.’
‘Like… What? Microbes, virus or the like?’
‘Depends on if Ross 128 B actually has any kind of atmosphere to begin with. If it has, yes, it could have every kind of those. Even some kinds of insects could survive in there… But, until we have stopped waging useless wars and spending our good taxpayers’ money in selfish pursuits, we’re not going to be able to know that soon enough.’
Oh, Terry. Mr. Cookie isn’t so sure about that.
September 02, 20XX
‘Dr. Reiner, please. Come to Green Paws, ASAP.’ - Elijah
The serpent has finally bitten its tail, I guess.
I went to the Green Paws Animal Refuge, preparing myself to meet another emissary of the Temrid Empire. A colleague of Mr. Cookie, perhaps. Given that he was pretty well treated in our company, we might end up being a UN branch office, if times were of the essence.
The reality, however, was to be somewhat different.
‘You’re not going to believe this, Brandon.’
‘Elijah, I wasn’t going to believe that Mr. Cookie talked… And I eventually did.’
Elijah sighed. He produced some envelopes out of his desk’s drawers, throwing them in the table in front of me.
‘Do you remember the results we sent to the lab weeks ago?’
‘Of course I do, Eli…’
As I opened the envelopes, I met the same results we sent… with a particular kind of rebuke.
The tests were sent back to us with a letter that, essentially, exhorted us to not sent them that kind of jokes again, especially given they had a lab that was running investigations valuable enough to be losing their time listening to dog barks.
‘I know, right? I called them. After one of their directors of research nearly assaulted me over the phone, and enough apologies of my part, he calmed down enough to talk with me. And he swore to me that they didn’t listen any talking or comprehensible language enough in the recordings.’
That was when I remembered the part about Mr. Cookie being a vessel for something.
As I thought about it, Elijah started to stare blankly at the TV screen of his office.
‘Wait… Are you seeing…?’
I turned to watch the TV as Elijah took the remote control with his hands, turning the volume up.
It was CNN on the screen. The quality of the signal was pathetic, but we could still make some sense of it.
‘… Breaking news… the Secretary of Defense… has said that the Russian Army has detonated a… powerful nuclear device in the mountains near the town of Verkhoyansk… the Prime Minister of Russia has said that it was just a… test for a nuclear dearming program… the strength of the blast, calculated in at least 25 megatons, suggest otherwise…’
‘… where the hell is Mr. Cookie?’
As Elijah and I looked each other, we both ran hastily to the refuge’s consulting room.
Mr. Cookie was there, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, looking at us with the love that only a dog can provide. Happy as a kid, he started barking over and over again.
Whatever happened with our Temrid Empire’s emissary, it seemed evident to me that, if humans had become a skeptical race…
… Russians were probably the lesser skepticals of the whole bunch.