Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Fiction for June 25, 2010

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Laury on her “Fill Your Paper…” blog. There’s already a good turn-out there, so be sure to visit for some great weekend reading.

I’ve been working on a short intro-type story into an idea I’ve been mulling over for a long time, but it’s not finished yet. Instead, I’ve decided to post a short excerpt from “Lana’s Pack.” In this scene from chapter 13, Marshall Bittman has been charged with tracking down and retrieving two dogs that were stolen from a research facility. While not having caught up to the dogs yet, he has become suspicious that he and his team have not been told the whole story on the dogs. He returns to the facility to confront the head researcher, Dr. Emil Sonders.


From Lana’s Pack

He was waiting in the office on Wednesday morning when Dr. Sonders walked in. The scientist regarded him with a questioning look. “Deputy Marshal Bittman; to what do I owe the pleasure? Have you recovered my other two dogs?”

“No, Dr. Sonders, I have not, though we do know who has them.”

“If you know who has them, then why aren’t they back here where they belong?”

“Sit down, Dr. Sonders, and let’s have a little chat about those two dogs, shall we? Do you have any idea what your dogs were up to yesterday?”

He sighed impatiently. “How would I know anything about what they were doing yesterday?”

He handed over a newspaper. “A little boy was abducted in Morro Bay, and despite the fact that the woman they were with knows nothing about handling dogs, they tracked down the child, got him away from the pedophile, returned him to his mother, and held the pervert for the police.”

The doctor’s smile was smug. “I would have expected nothing less of them; Freki and Geri were developed and trained as search and rescue dogs, though we anticipated putting them through field trials up at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. Our aim was to produce such working dogs that are autonomous once given their tasks. Dogs are able to move faster than their human handlers, and to go places humans cannot go; if they are able to analyze the situation and to react appropriately without a human constantly directing them, they can better serve their mission.”

“I don’t suppose it occurred to you that your dogs ability to act this independently was important to mention to us, did you?”

“I gave you what you needed, Marshal.”

“Did you now? I’ve learned a lot about Freki and Geri in the last twenty-four hours, Dr. Sonders, and some of what I’m now suspecting seems like information I should have been told right from the start. Tell me, doctor, is there a valid reason why I have two people who claim to have heard one of these dogs talking, and I have a third that would not be surprised if she had?”

“I’m not authorized to discuss this with you.”

“You gave these dogs sufficient intelligence to understand human speech, and to respond in kind, didn’t you? You know, doctor, when we figured out the Malamutes were traveling with someone else, we assumed she was another accomplice. It didn’t occur to me until last night that she might be nothing more than a good Samaritan that the dogs recruited to help them. If they can talk, they can ask for help, can’t they?”

“They can also instruct victims, inform rescuers of conditions, and coordinate between themselves as needed.”

“In my line of work, Dr. Sonders, it’s what we don’t know that burns us every time. We didn’t know we were dealing with dogs that are capable of rational thought and communication, trained to work as a team to achieve a goal.”

“I told you these animals are classified by the Government; while you might have argued a convincing need to know, you didn’t have the proper clearance level to have been given the full scope of the project.”

“So now I know anyway, and I’m very unhappy about the circumstances. No more nonsense and double-talk, Sonders; I want to know the full scope of what I’m dealing with here.”

The man took a deep breath and regarded him for a moment, considering the demand. “Come with me, Marshal.” He led the way to an elevator and keyed in the code to access it. They rode it down to a basement level, and when the door opened they stepped into a large kennel area. “We have been charged by the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice to develop dogs for various purposes. We have drug dogs that can not only sniff out most commonly smuggled narcotics, but they can also tell their handler what they detect. We have dogs for the military and homeland security capable of discriminating different kinds of explosives, scenting fugitives out, working autonomously to take down armed suspects, you name it.”

“How do these dogs compare to Freki and Geri?”

“Baron, come here, please”

A Belgian Malinois trotted up and sat at Sonder’s feet.

“Baron, is Mr. Bittman carrying a weapon?”

“Gun,” the dog said. “Clean.”

“You’re carrying a gun that has not been fired since the last time you cleaned it.”

“Dear merciful God,” Ray said. “What in heaven’s name have you done?”

“What we have done, Marshal, is create the next innovation in keeping law enforcement officers safe. Baron doesn’t need to frisk a suspect to know if he’s armed; he can smell the metals used in most weapons and accurately identify them better than eighty percent of the time. He can identify the most common street drugs, tell the officer what liquor someone has been drinking, if they are sweating out alcohol or chemicals, track suspects by scent, sight, and sound – including, I might add, eavesdropping on suspects or bystanders to obtain tactical information, and react intelligently to the dynamic threat situation. Get used to the idea; within the decade teams like yours will include a dog like Baron.”

“And our Government is okay with this?”

“Who do you think paid for these projects? Well, except for the Malamutes; that was my own project. Many search and rescue dogs are owned by private citizens who volunteer with police or emergency services as needed. I chose the Alaskan Malamute for the pilot rescue dog program for their strength, endurance, intelligence, ability to work in teams, and almost obnoxious independent streaks. To have heard that Freki and Geri performed so admirably under real world conditions is just the ultimate proof of the concept.”


Laury said...

Very interesting story. These dogs are more intelligent than many people I know;) Thanks for sharing.

LauraLee Shaw said...

This is really good, Rick. The plot invited me in to eavesdrop. Look forward to hearing more.

Carole L Robishaw said...

I think I would like a dog that could tell me what the problem was. Maybe it would just tell me there were people walking past the house, instead of carrying on like they are committing murder until they are far enough away she can't see them any more.

Joanne Sher said...

Fascinating, Rick - as is all your stuff. You do such a good job with this stuff.

BethL said...

I think I know where you might get inspiration for the dogs in your story. :) I was fascinated with their intelligence and abilities. Great writing and creativity here.