Star Dog: Earth’s Last Shield 1.18

“I didn’t know you could sew”, Bandit said from the foot of the bed while he gnawed on a chew toy.

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” Caleb said as he threaded a needle. “Like that I don’t allow animals on the furniture.” Bandit looked up.

“That’s cold, Torres. Real cold.”

“Well, warm yourself up. Come try this on.” Caleb held out the finished product, and Bandit hopped off the bed and trotted over to him. It was easy to slip on the purple mask. It was a stiff material, but it gently followed the slope of his face without obstructing his vision.

“Good job on making the eye holes,” Bandit commented.

“I have a knack for spatial reasoning,” Caleb said while admiring his work. He helped Bandit into the main piece, which was a vest much like his police vest, but it was deep purple and covered more of his body. It had the spandex look in a few places, but along the front it was more corded in appearance. He tried to move in it, and it felt comfortable enough. The last part were the leg guards on his forelegs. Superficially, they were the shade of purple to match, but underneath they were strong leather to help support his joints. He sighed, thinking about how athletic his new role would be.

He looked in the mirror at his new self. He didn’t recognize himself. He really did look like a super dog, as far as homespun costumes go. He was pleased to see that his cream-colored star on his shoulder was visible, and even accentuated like an emblem. Luckily, it would be hidden under his police uniform, which he was rarely without in public. It felt right to have the star as a part of his new persona, and not his day-to-day one. Caleb moved behind him and tried to affix something flowing and purple to the collar of the costume, and Bandit swiftly sidestepped.

“No capes,” he said, and Caleb took on a pained look.

“But it’s so cute,” he said and tried to tempt his canine companion at the shininess of the fabric.

“Absolutely not.”

“You’re being a real bummer about this superhero thing. When am I going to get this chance again?”

“With your next super dog, I promise.”

Their playful argument was interrupted by Caleb’s police scanner and phone going haywire at the same time. He lunged to answer it, and by the time he had hung up, he had a grim look on his face.

“We have to get downtown. Orville strikes again, and this time is far worse.”

* * *

The duo rushed downtown with the siren blaring and Bandit still in his superhero costume. They didn’t even have to get close to see it. Caleb pulled over in an alley to let Bandit out so he could approach from a distance and no one would suspect them of being together. If they recognized each other publicly, then someone would figure out that Star Dog was actually Bandit, a police dog. They were about to head towards the disaster, but it was hard to look away.

Smoke was rising in pillars from a distance, and the rocky surface of the golem was unmistakable. It was now about three stories tall, and any resemblance of humanity was gone. It looked like a boulder with smaller boulders for limbs, and all the joints were melted together. The head was just a broad crest at the top, and the neck was no longer distinguishable. Caleb and Bandit looked on in horror as people fled in all directions. Fire trucks and ambulances whizzed passed the alley and raucous car alarms went off in the distance. It couldn’t wait. They shared a nod, and then parted.

Caleb rushed off in his squad car to get to the scene. He would hang back a little so no one noticed that Bandit wasn’t with him at that moment. Bandit went off to the other side of the alley and sprinted toward the carnage. He burst out onto the street with energy coiling in his body, and he ran right towards the hulking golem that was flailing at the buildings. Debris exploded into the air and showered down upon the fleeing citizens. Being this close was a lot more intimidating since Bandit could only reasonably attack one of his stumpy legs. When he was close enough to see the texture of the concrete’s stubble, he planted himself and spun the energy off him in a horizontal slice. The purple energy whizzed through the air and sliced off a chunk of concrete, which landed heavily on the sidewalk.

There was a sound like steam escaping a tea kettle, and Bandit realized that the golem was screaming. It stumbled backwards a few steps, and Bandit saw something very important. The concrete receded past where he had seared off a chunk, but it was growing back even more slowly. It moved as if the concrete were alive, and he had hurt it. He looked in awe and what he had done, and he knew he had to do it again.

The golem swung out and lifted an abandoned car through the air, and Bandit dodged, only to see it fly past him and towards a group of citizens, a mother with streaks of dirt on her face and her two scraped up children. They were about to be in a lot worse shape. Bandit lunged after the car, and like how he had started to pass the bus, his paw pads heated up and he felt himself become a blur. He leapt above the car as it arced towards the screaming woman and he came down hard in a front flip. His tail guided the energy into a scythe down the middle of the car, and it exploded apart. When he landed, he saw each half of the car skid to a stop on either side of the crouching woman who held her kids close for dear life. They stood up with confused expressions on their face, blinking into the light and looking at the severed car that had missed them by inches.

“Who are you?” the woman asked, wiping her tears away and smudging the dirt streaks more.

“I’m Star Dog. Now get to safety.” Bandit turned and ran towards the golem again before it could retaliate, leaving the woman watching him in wonder. When the golem screamed again, she grabbed her kids and headed off the street and away from the area.

Star Dog sprinted again until he felt the flying sensation he was starting to recognize, then he leapt and came down hard on the golem’s leg again. This time it fell forward and caught itself with a rocky limb, causing a jagged indent in the road. People were still trying to weave between broken cars and the police barricade that stood uselessly at the end of the street. Their guns were aimed at the giant, but instinctively they all knew that bullets would do nothing. A few officers tried to help trapped victims to safety, but other than that, they collectively felt hopeless. Until they saw the giant fall.

Star Dog rushed again and this time ran up the leg and catapulted towards the head. When he flipped over in a vertical slice, he landed hard on the shoulder. Large chunks of concrete sloughed off, and what remained from the gaping wound receded as if in pain and fear. More hissing and screaming came from the golem, who now flailed more as the boulder arms couldn’t reach the canine clinging to its back. As it stood, Bandit ran down its length and made it back onto the road before gravity pulled him down. He didn’t rest and instead looped around the lumbering golem, distracting the giant that tried to follow the nimble canine.

The wounds he had made were still trying to refill, and he couldn’t let them. He noticed that whenever a new wound was made, the entire creature shuddered and all wounds stopped momentarily in healing as the whole creature suffered. He just had to keep it up. Bandit sprinted and launched himself at the downtown office building nearest the golem. Purple energy circled around the bottom of his paw pads and seemed to act like small platforms that boosted him forward and up the wall of the building. He galloped up a full story, not fully believing what he was doing. The energy pulsing off of him brought him higher and he could see his reflection in the window, and beyond it, he saw the cowering business dressed people behind desks, watching him with wide eyes. He paused for a moment and felt a sensation of suspension as he took in the scene. Then he saw it coming for him in the reflection as he hovered there in the buoyancy of the purple energy. One boulder-clad limb shooting his way and closing in.

He pushed off the building and did a graceful back flip towards the golem. Violet energy spiraled around his lupine form as it propelled him towards the crest of the golem. Like before, he concentrated all his energy towards the tip of his tail as he turned over, and the lavender slice hurtled down the head of the boulder and zipped to the stumpy concrete legs. Bandit landed looking at the building as the golem toppled backward and landed in the street with a resounding boom that shook the street like an earthquake. Otherworldly screaming became a man screaming as the concrete crumbled and melted off, and Bandit turned to see the creature shrink and pink flesh was revealed.

He started to walk towards him to see if he was alright, but stopped when a black van tore down the street, dodging debris and recovering citizens. It pulled up next to Orville, who still had a few clumps of concrete bubbling around his skin. He was coughing and didn’t seem coherent. Men jumped out of the van and started to open up the back, which Bandit could see was reinforced, like a maximum-security prison vehicle. The canine looked to the police, who looked just as surprised as he felt. The men were wearing all black jumpsuits with no decoration beyond their identical lapels. Bandit tried to see them beyond the glint, and realized they looked like silver fox faces.

Working together, the men were able to lift the sluggish Orville into the back of the container and lock it up. One of the police chiefs ran forward and addressed the man that had been driving.

“Hey, hold on! What do you think you’re doing?” The police chief caught up before they were about to drive away with their quick work.

“Sir, we’re with a government agency.” The man showed him a badge and handed him a card. “Don’t worry. We’re equipped to handle unusual cases. We’re going to rehabilitate Raymond Orville here and get him back to his family safe and sound. Thank you, boys, for all your hard work.”

Bandit thought it was time to make his getaway now since it was over and no one was paying him much attention anymore. He didn’t want to stick around to be asked any questions that he couldn’t answer. He only edged forward just enough to pick up the card, which the police chief had tossed to the ground after being summarily dismissed, then Bandit made his way back to the alley where Caleb met him a few minutes later. Caleb took the card and tucked it into his pocket.

Whether it was shock or adrenaline draining, they were both silent on their way back to the precinct, and Caleb helped the newly minted canine superhero get back into his police uniform. They would have plenty of time to talk about it later, but now they were needed at the precinct for their report. As they walked the halls and Bandit came face to face with the empty portraits of the K-9 Hall of Fame next to Sarge, he felt at peace for the first time when he imagined his own portrait up there. He saw Blue Steele walk past and he gave him a friendly canine smile with his tongue lolling out. Blue Steele stopped and looked at him. They were on different sides of sentience now, but he felt their rivalry would persist, but now with an atmosphere of mutual admiration.

When Caleb and Bandit got to their cubicle, Caleb took the card that Bandit had retrieved and tossed it onto the desk, and they both peered at it, not knowing what it meant. These were the people that took Orville, and it felt unnatural that he hadn’t been remanded into police custody. Could they really have been a government agency? Neither Caleb nor Bandit had heard of it. They looked at the name in confusion and unease.

Embossed on the front of the card read a single acronym: D-MISE.

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