Confessions of a Partially-Reformed D-MISE Agent 8/16/17

Even as a D-MISE agent, inside an organization built on secrets, there are many things that I am not supposed to know that I do. I know who our faceless leader is. I know why he founded D-MISE, and I know that I can get away with publishing these secrets because I won’t be around long enough to face the consequences, as far-reaching as they will be. I pity those that stand between us. I pity myself because the fruits of my labor could very well wither before I get to taste them in After. I never directly met our leader, but I’ve always considered him a mentor.

I haven’t been a perfect D-MISE agent. There were times when I went outside the protocol. There were times when I made hard choices that didn’t directly benefit the big picture. There were times when I was misguided, and there were times when I was oblivious. Whatever I was, however, I was good at covering my tracks. The decentralization worked in my favor, and perhaps our meticulous leader’s all-seeing eye had a blind spot that I exploited. Maybe he knew and kept me around for other reasons.

I can’t explain why I stepped outside my role on several occasions and interfered where I probably shouldn’t have. Perhaps I was feeling nostalgic for a life I could no longer lead. Perhaps I had gotten comfortable getting away with things that other agents would be fried for (that wasn’t a typo for “fired”). Maybe I just liked the guy, and I couldn’t stand back and watch him keep messing up and stumbling through mission after mission. Maybe I felt guilty that he was cursed with our lab experiment gone wrong, a very unpleasant and sadistic creature. Maybe getting involved stroked my ego and gave me gratification that working the shadows usually doesn’t. Maybe I just missed the sound of a human voice.

In my time as an agent, I became very attuned to riddles and clues, and I became good at giving indirect answers, no matter how much it frustrated him. I even enjoyed it on a mischievous level. Very few of us are granted anything close to resembling partners when we work for D-MISE, so for a stretch, he was my only company, even though we could only talk through shadows. I had to be careful that he didn’t rely on me too much, but that came to pain me as much as it did him. I needed to know that he could stand on his own two feet, and carry his weight for the big picture. I might not always be there to point him in the right direction, and I guess I needed to assuage my guilt. After a time, I began to feel a strange tingle of pride when he did well.

All the secrets that I kept for D-MISE, I struggled the most with keeping my own. I’m the one that helped Langston Romaijn, and I would do it again.


Confessions of a Partially-Reformed D-MISE Agent 8/9/17

Most of us were driven by the bigger picture. Some of us weren’t. I can’t tell you the difference between which, because we all worked fervently to bring together the organization’s goals. It was our mantra. It was our life. The big picture was delivered to us in the same way that all of our information was – in bits and pieces, in riddles and clues in plain sight. D-MISE became our religion, and we looked for signs of those who would play God in our daily life. In a restaurant, in a club, in a parking lot, or in a store, our eyes would be scanning for something just slightly out of place. Whether we found it or not, the search would continue. Our lives depended on it.

I suppose it’s very possible that there are some among us who never interpreted the bigger picture and what D-MISE was trying to mitigate, and they just worked for the smaller reward of being able to live from day to day. I work for the big picture. I share the vision of how the world is changing, and I want to be a part of it. I want to be able to survive in it, and the only way to do that is to stay ahead of it. Something big is building in our world, and I’m not sure how many of us are going to make it to other side of After. There’s always a chance that I won’t, especially if certain information is released.

It’s too late to stop it. It’s out of humanity’s control. The world isn’t a great place as it is, but it’s likely to become worse – much worse. D-MISE is only trying to prepare us. D-MISE and all its agents are the hero of this story. We know about the change, and we know we have to change with it. The mass of citizens in Prism City might not know it, maybe a few can guess. We are agents because we chose not to be oblivious, and we are willing to do what’s necessary.

I mentioned before that there are some in our organization that like to play God. Allow me to qualify that statement. The Star Dog technology is the turning point, the fulcrum, around which our world revolves. It is the technology that will help us to After, and I can tell you that Before isn’t going to last much longer. Complacency is the killer in the shadows, and it will decimate a large portion of the world’s population. Not D-MISE.

We have learned to change the biology of other creatures, and we have had many, many failures along the way. It’s not an easy process, and if we are well-funded somewhere farther up the invisible rungs of our organization, I can’t tell. We’ve made monsters that terrorize the citizens in the dead of night, but I have to assume there’s something special about Star Dog. We tried to recreate our own, but things went wrong. So very, very wrong.

Confessions of a Partially-Reformed D-MISE Agent

Many of us didn’t know exactly what we were signing up for, but that doesn’t excuse us. Ignorance is the crutch of the weak, and by now, we’ve learned to become strong. I’m writing this now as a manifesto of the things we’ve been through, and things that I, personally, have encountered. During my time as a D-MISE agent, I’ve done some tremendous things, and equally terrible things. I wish I could say that I was ashamed of them, and on some level I must be to write this, but I can’t deny that it helped me live in an unlivable world, and I won’t apologize for that.

When this all started, I wasn’t much of anything. I had no direction in life, and Prism City wasn’t a very generous place. That hasn’t improved in recent years, and although I’ve had to face unthinkable consequences, I shudder to think where I could have ended up. Yes, I know about Paradise, and Utopia, and countless other squabbling communities that have popped up on Prism City’s streets. We have to know everything, including our fair city’s best kept secrets. We’ve made most of them. You’ll soon learn about a large quantity of them, but even I am not privy to all of them.

Our organization works best with decentralization. I don’t know who my superiors are. I don’t know who my inferiors are. I don’t know who my peers are. I only know who I know when I need to know them, and then I forget. I’ve become very good at forgetting, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I suppose that’s an occupational hazard I’ve been trained to accept, just like I’ve been trained to accept that my orders come when and where I least expect them. All I know is that I had better follow them, and failure is not an option.

There isn’t much else I would rather be doing, because before this I was lined up for death row. I wasn’t particularly a good person, but I can say with certainty that I didn’t belong there. I didn’t deserve to have my neck on the chopping block, but I had ended up there anyways. At the last second, I had received a pardon from an anonymous source, and before I knew what was happening, I was being loaded into an unmarked van like an animal and carted off to the unknown. I was dressed up like their doll and thrown into missions before I had even known the protocol. Looking back on it, I can see that was their test of my mettle, and I had passed. When I had, I came out the other side of their artificial adversity as a new man, with a new life, and even a new face.

This wasn’t a real face, but it passed for one. I remotely operated an android to do the dirty work while I stayed in the shadows where I belonged. It was through these electronic eyes that I had first encountered the being that irrevocably changed our world: Star Dog.

2 Truths, 1 Lie: Permutation #3

“Are you sure this is alright?” Star Dog asked as he followed his human companion for the day around the stage. His ears were slightly laid back and his steps were tentative as he watched all of the other volunteers at work on the stage. Some were painting a few fixtures, others were taping blocking on the stage, and a couple with headsets were off to the side looking over the stage directions on a clipboard.

“This is community theatre, and you are part of the community, my good sir,” Clancy said with a smile as he pranced around the stage before resting against a hardy stage set. It was on wheels, so he was able to easily spin it around to reveal a fancy circular staircase. “I told Nathan you’d be getting in a lot of work experience today, and I intend to hold to my promise.”

“I just want to make sure I’m not in the way,” Star Dog said, but even while he wanted to remain modest, his curiosity was being tugged in so many directions with all lively activity surrounding him. “I didn’t imagine it could feel like this.”

“What were you expecting?” Clancy chuckled as he started roving through the costume rack backstage. He found a vampire lord outfit from last Halloween’s production and held it against himself while looking in the mirror. Star Dog eyed the costume as well. “Did you really believe Nathan when he said this theatre was haunted?”

“Would it be foolish to admit it?” Star Dog said to the dirty blond teenager in the mirror, who turned and dramatically grasped his muzzle in the crook of his finger. He peered into his eyes and smiled widely.

“Absolutely not, because it’s absolutely true,” Clancy winked and then went back to ransacking the costumes before explaining. “There’s so much energy poured into theatrical arts, especially here. It’s impossible that none of it was captured in the walls and in the sets. Everything is made from our sweat and breath, so everything we do captures a little bit of it. Our spirit beats on this stage, and in many other places. Our director swears up and down that she saw a ghost in one of the halls. I’m telling you, it’s one of ours.”

“Interesting,” Star Dog said, not sure what else to say. He wasn’t sure if the tale intrigued him to stay or gave him second thoughts. He had faced all manner of mortal men, but anything beyond the realm of the living and he wondered if it really mattered how many abilities genetic engineering bestowed on him. Ghosts probably don’t care if a dog can talk or not.

“Here, try this on,” Clancy interrupted his thoughts by tugging on a Victorian suit and cravat over Star Dog’s lupine snout. It took some fiddling, and Clancy even had to re-do it once he found out it was a three piece suit, but after the torture was complete, Star Dog couldn’t help but flash a toothy canine smile in the grimy mirror at his own dapper reflection.

“If only I had some steampunk goggles,” Clancy muttered with his fingers to his chin thoughtfully, but he clapped his hands joyously anyways. “You look great! We could really put a twist on this new vampire screenplay we got in. Have you acted before?”

“I guess you could say that,” Star Dog muttered while considering his reflection. Does it count as acting when others thrust the role upon one without their knowledge or consent? It technically is still fulfilling a role, which is something Star Dog was all too familiar with – but that was behind him now, as he had to keep reminding himself.

“There’s so much that goes into acting,” Clancy said while picking out a costume for himself. “So much more that goes into theatre. I can show you how to work the lights, and we can help build a few last minute sets. Are you good with power tools?”

“Can I start with the powerless tools?” Star Dog whimpered, and Clancy laughed.

“You’ll do fine,” he said while donning a frilled shirt and a billowing velvet cape. “The show must go on!”

2 Truths, 1 Lie: Permutation #2

“Come on, Star Dog, we don’t want to be late!” Nathan called as he locked the car and started walking towards the park. Star Dog grabbed the blanket in his maw and followed at a joyful trot. It was a beautiful day in Prism Park, and the sun made all of the ornamental fixtures sparkle and warmed Star Dog’s black and tan fur. The pavement was slightly too hot for his padded feet, so he skipped lightly up onto the grass and bounded up to Nathan. The young man laughed and swung the picnic basket to the other side to give his canine companion room next to him to walk.

“A small part of me thought you were joking about the picnic,” Star Dog mumbled around the blanket.

“Why would I joke about this? It’s a gorgeous day, and Nicole’s meeting us there with even more food,” Nathan said brightly.

“Thank Anubis, I wasn’t sure about that casserole you made,” Star Dog said as he looked for where Nicole might be set up.

“It’s my mother’s recipe,” Nathan sniffed. “Anubis?”

“Egyptian God that resembles canines,” Star Dog explained. “I’m trying to make it catch on.”

“Good luck,” Nathan said tersely as he spotted Nicole and waved to her with his free hand. The duo made their way up the small hill to join her. It was a gentle slope with the softest grass that was kindly shaded by the biggest willow tree in the park. It was isolated from the other families that were enjoying the day with their small kids running around, and while they were fun to watch from a distance, they also wanted their own privacy where a certain talking dog could be a talking dog without fear of someone listening in.

Not that Star Dog was a secret anymore, but the unwanted attention would ruin their day together. The point was trying to get over the Star Dog Fiasco that the multinational corporation known as Vertechs would perpetuate. It was hard to imagine that was a year ago already. It felt like a lifetime, Star Dog mused while looking at Nathan and Nicole hugging. After they left each other’s warm embrace, Star Dog inched forward for his own warm greeting from Nicole, who bent down and grasped his warm fur. She kissed him on his tan forehead and then stood up with the blanket in hand.

“Thanks Star Dog,” she said as she spread the blanket out. It was large enough to accommodate all of them, but it was a cozy fit. The food was spread out with appetizers first, including a small salad and cheese and crackers. Star Dog started to gobble up a lot of it, including the garnish which caused Nicole to panic and say, “Star Dog! Wait!” before pulling the plastic and utensils out of the way of the snapping canine jaws. With a small burp, Star Dog apologized and took the special food that Nathan had prepared for him.

“Not that he needs it,” Nathan commented. “Eating is mostly a joy for him since his metabolism can burn off anything, but he can similarly last weeks on a few pieces of kibble. Your father did a great job with him.”

“Thank you,” Nicole said while biting into a sandwich. “Do you really think I should follow in his footsteps?”

“If you want,” Nathan said noncommittally. “It depends on which degree you want to pursue next.”

“You say that as if I’m collecting them,” she smirked.

“I thought you were,” Nathan teased with a wink. “Eventually I imagined you would get them all, and plaster your office with them like wallpaper.”

“I honestly don’t know what I want to do next in life,” Nicole said while she wove her gentle fingers through Star Dog’s fur. “I just know that I’m finally getting to a happy place now, and it’s because of you two.”

Star Dog licked her fingers gently, both looking for cracker crumbs, and also to comfort her. He understood about finally getting to a happy place, and he could only hope that this one didn’t go crashing into the sea like the wrecks of his other incidents of happiness.

2 Truths, 1 Lie: Permutation #1

The sunlight streaming in through the second story window fell right across my bed. I stretched my long, canine limbs and then snapped my muzzle open in a yawn. My velvet ears swiveled to catch the nuances of breakfast sounds that floated up the stairs. The window was open just enough to let in the fresh breeze of summer, and I inhaled it with all my being. Smells of the garden permeated my being, and I bounded up with unbridled enthusiasm and joy. We were going to work out in the garden today, and it was going to be special.

I raced downstairs and out the sliding door before I even saw my family seated around the kitchen island for breakfast because I knew I had no time to waste on such a glorious day. My padded feet touched the warm grass as I hopped off the patio and surveyed my green kingdom of towering sunflowers and rose bush trellises. All of the flowers were in full bloom and filled out the edge of the yard where the fence hugged the perimeter with their vibrant and diverse hues. It truly felt as if I was entering a magical kingdom, and not far behind me came the little prince.

“Star Dog?” Max peeked out the sliding glass door and tentatively stepped out onto the patio. His young, round face was full of worry, but I trotted back to him to give his hand reassuring licks. I took the edge of his sleeve at his wrist and pulled him gently into the yard, and his face brightened at the sight of the flowers showing off their colorful petals.

“You don’t have to be afraid, Max,” I said, my voice firm with conviction as we surveyed the garden together. I watched as he turned and took in the fruits of our hard labor for the past few months since spring broke the cold. Before the winter could reclaim the land and bury the life, I knew we had to take advantage of the beauty, and I was glad Max was finally out here to enjoy it. “You’re safe here. This is my magical kingdom.” I winked conspiratorially at my boy, and he giggled at the thought.

“Who’s the King?” he asked with a wide, boyish smile.

“Well, I am, of course,” I said, nodding at the tree that I favored. “That is my throne.” Max was sent into a fit of giggles, but I tugged at a protruding pocket of his cargo pants and lead him around to introduce him to all of the plants that I adored.

“Do you always talk to them this much?” Max said as we cover the western bushes.

“Of course,” I said. “That’s why they’ve grown so well. I gave them attention. They’re peeking out to see if I’ll tell them the end of the story today.”

“Will you?” Max said absentmindedly as he grazed a long petal from a sunflower with a firm stalk.

“I might, and I might not,” I whispered. “I’ll have you know that the best stories never end. Not truly.”

“Really? Can you tell me one of them?” Max said, his eyes full of hope.

“I suppose you’ve been good…” I teased, and then I leaned forward and bent my knees, which Max took as an invitation to hop on. His young, lithe frame was easy to carry, especially on my larger beast one. His fingers entangled in my furry mane at the scruff of my neck, and I bounded around the yard while he laughed joyously. I varied my speed and tempo, and even gave him a few close calls in a fake tumble, but truthfully he was always safe astride my back. I would guard him with my life, and deep down I think he knew that. When we were both exhausted, we finally collapse below my tree and panted in unison.

“Can you tell me the story now?” Max begged.

“Alright. Which one would you like to hear?” I relented with my canine smile spreading across my muzzle. The sun was bright and the wind was light, and I couldn’t have had better company than the boy I had sworn to protect and love as he grows up.

“Tell me how this kingdom was created,” Max said, again looking at all the different plants and how they weaved together to frame the yard and simulate their own little village.

“Very well. It all started with a seed of hope, and with a helping of love, all life was able to flourish and thrive in the kingdom.”

I never wanted that moment to end.

Two Truths and One Lie

Star Dog’s Internal Dialogue, Disc 83:

“I spent a lot of time as a floating consciousness, and that gives one time to travel along all the permutations that a life can lead. I wondered who I was, who I could and would be, and who I might be. In all the facets of life that I could traverse, I never could fully explore every nook and cranny of any style or taste I might possess, even though I had virtual eons at my disposal.

What is reality?

If I looked deep inside myself, could I glean what my consciousness had a penchant for over any other? Was this truly me, or just programmed memories?”

Continue reading “Two Truths and One Lie”

How I Wrote Star Dog Legacy

I started writing Star Dog Legacy in 2012 for a university short fiction contest. The theme was “The Year 2032”, so twenty years from then. It was meant to be just futuristic enough to warrant some interesting changes, so I did with that what I could. I blended my two favorite things – German shepherds, and genetic engineering. Every major story I’ve ever written has featured a German shepherd in some way, if not as the main character.

Continue reading “How I Wrote Star Dog Legacy”

The Best Reward

When I was younger, I watched my mother play a slot game online. While it was like many others of its type, colorful and loud, and lining up the cherries made you feel like a winner, it had a unique feature too. Every time you lined up the right things to trigger a bonus round, at the end of it you were rewarded with a snippet of story. That part was the whole reason I watched, and I begged my mother to write down any I missed. Continue reading “The Best Reward”