Star Dog: Earth’s Last Shield 1.16

Bandit shot after the bus and was surprised to see himself flying ahead of it. He was afraid he wouldn’t be able to reach Caleb in time. Everything felt like it was in slow motion as he remembered the last words exchanged between the two of them. He couldn’t let another partner down – not now. His padded feet flew and catapulted his canine mass forward, and just as he gained a few strides on the bus right before the crosswalk, he instinctively knew what to do. As Caleb finally looked up at the bus about to mow him down, Bandit saw his partner’s eyes go wide and his arms go up in futile defense.

Not missing a beat, the canine spun on the spot and planted his padded feet on the asphalt, another car veering off the side to miss him, but stopping in time before any damage occurred. The canine officer’s inertia seemed to shed off him like a second skin, and an unidentifiable power that Bandit had felt welling up inside of him dissipated, and he couldn’t believe what he saw next. Purple energy in his own lupine shape darted forward and exploded into a wall that caught the front-end corner of the bus and immediately slowed it and boosted it onto the sidewalk, which was free of the other more observant pedestrians who had already fled the runaway bus, and missing Caleb by inches. The bus slowed to a halt just beyond a bench it had narrowly missed and right before the first tree it would have hit.

Bandit watched in awe as the purple energy dissipated into nothingness and he wondered what happened. Had that conjured creature come out of him? How? Caleb’s wide, unbelieving eyes caught his own, and he looked around at the people gathering nearby. Had they seen what Bandit did? As he listened to their talking and saw their focus was the bus, he guessed not. No one paid him any attention – he was just a mutt that ran out into the street and nearly got himself killed. Once Caleb caught his breath from almost having been caught on the grill of the bus, he ran up to it and went inside to see what had happened, and Bandit followed behind. They didn’t get a chance to talk about it until much later at the precinct.

“How was the bus driver?” Christine asked him over a coffee in the break room a few hours later after everything was settled.

“He’s fine now,” Caleb said. “Cardiac arrest and the passengers didn’t realize it until he started to run the light. Luckily he fell forward and leaned on the brake and steering wheel at the last minute.”

“Fortunate indeed. Downright convenient, as far as heart attacks go,” Christine said while chewing on her coffee straw. “Are you pressing charges?”

“For what? I’m fine,” Caleb said while he mixed sugar into his own cup.

“But you very easily couldn’t have been. He was going over forty-five. I don’t think you’d be walking after that, if you know what I mean.”

“Well, luckily that didn’t happen. I’m not suing over something that could have happened,” Caleb said with a hint of disgust in his voice, and Christine caught it.

“Fine, fine,” she said lightly. “If only the rest of America felt the same way.”

Caleb shook his head as they both went back to their respective cubicles. Bandit was laying down next to his partner’s desk with his head crested on his passively crossed wrist joints. His eyes shot up when Caleb entered and his tail wagged slowly. He watched as Caleb seated himself after looking around the office. Not many people were near them usually, and even less so at this time of day when officers started heading home. At least they would have a bit of privacy for their low whispers.

“So, is there something you’d like to tell me?” Caleb said while sipping his coffee.

“Is there something you saw?” Bandit countered.

“I think you know the answer to that,” Caleb sighed. “What happened? What was that? Where did it go?”

“I don’t know how to explain it. I felt something trembling inside me while I was running, and then it felt like it was about to explode. It came naturally to me. I just felt like I could throw it, so I did.”

“So, it was like energy? Kinetic energy?” Caleb’s eighth grade science class started coming back to him. “That would make sense that your transferred energy would take your shape. But could it really stop the bus like that? You caught it just right.”

“Why thank you-”

“Not a compliment.”

“Oh. So, where did it go? Did it just dissipate?”

“It appears so. I guess it just transferred into the rest of the world like all energy and dispersed.”

“I’ve never been so scared of myself,” Bandit muttered, laying prone on the floor. “I’m a monster.”

“No, don’t even go there,” Caleb interrupted and reached down to cup Bandit’s furry face in his hands. “You’re a hero. As long as you always have the right intentions, you’ll be fine. I’m not worried.”

“You don’t understand how powerful I felt. You saw what damage I could cause. That was nothing compared to how it felt inside of me. I was boiling.”

“We’ll keep an eye on it, but having a gift doesn’t automatically corrupt you,” Caleb reminded. “Now, let’s get your mind off it. We’ll work on controlling it in a bit when you’re more focused. Instead, look here. I think I found a breakthrough in the case.” He brought up some files on the screen and Bandit hoisted himself up to look.

“What are these?” Bandit asked.

“These are the pages for the missing person report for Raymond Orville, as filed by his wife,” Caleb explained. “I found a connection. Look at this statement – Raymond went missing on the day of his wedding anniversary.”

“So?”

“So? Think about all the places he went – jewelry store, flower shop, bakery. Sounds like a lot of places where someone might get anniversary gifts. So, I did some digging and called the owners of the places. Understandably, most weren’t up to talking, but they were persuaded to check their customer files again, and I was right. Orville had a fancy necklace on layaway, custom ordered a flower arrangement, and a cake with personalized icing for his wife.”

“I guess that explains why he went to all those places. So, there must still be a semblance of humanity inside him,” Bandit realized with widening eyes. “He’s not completely taken over by the concrete golem. There’s still him in there.” Bandit and Caleb looked at each other with grim acknowledgement.

“We have to save him,” they said simultaneously.

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