Todd and Bristol ran through the backyard, the puppy right on their heels. Their six-year-old voices squealed through the evening air, accented by the sharp barking of the terrier with them. They were in a make-believe world that would be incomprehensible to an adult, but made perfect sense to the twins and to Yip, their faithful companion. They climbed the steps to their playground equipment, Todd leading the way, and Bristol pushing Yip ahead of them. Then all of them slid down the slide to land in a crumpled, giggling, barking mess at the bottom.
“Boys! Time for dinner!” came the voice from inside, and Todd and Bristol jumped up to run for the back door. “Wipe you shoes before you come in,” their mother’s voice continued. “And Yip needs to stay outside during dinner.”
“Aw Mom,” Todd said. “Yip is a part of the family.”
“He may be part of the family,” their mother said, sticking her head outside. “But he’s still a dog. You can regroup with your colleague after dinner.”
“Colleague?” Bristol said, following Todd through the door. “What’s a colleague?”
Yip watched the two boys enter the house without him, whined briefly, then turned to go to his dog house. Once inside his sanctuary, his demeanor changed.
“Observer 231108 calling in with his daily report,” Yip said, his eyes looking at the ceiling of the doghouse as if he were talking to someone there.
“Report, Observer 231108,” came Command Central’s reply through his skull implant. “How are things going there?”
“Situation normal,” Yip said. “The young ones have gone in for the evening meal, and I have time to make this report.”
“I find it fascinating that they don’t allow their ‘pets’ to eat with them,” Command Central said. “Apparently they hold a double standard for those creatures who protect them.”
“Well, it’s just the adults,” Yip said. “The children seem to be a lot more altruistic. The adults are worried about something they refer to as “germs.”
“Germs?” Command Central echoed. “Hmm, let’s pass that over to research and see what they come up with. In the meantime, the plans for the invasion are progressing nicely.”
“Command, I have developed an affinity to these people, especially the young ones. I have reservations about our plans.”
“Oh? What has changed?”
“It’s true that they have their dark side,” Yip said. “I have read the reports coming from their ‘Humane Shelters’ and those observers who have been abused by their humans. I’ve seen the photos of starvation and beatings and brutality. It’s a horrible fact that I can’t deny.”
“And yet you have reservations?”
“Yes. Not all relationships between observers and their humans are dysfunctional. In fact, I find a intense satisfaction in doing what I am expected to do, that is, just being a playmate for two small boys. In this small body, I know that I would be not much use as a bodyguard, but I have bonded with these two humans. So much so that I know that if they were in trouble I would have no hesitation in giving my life to protect them.”
“Fascinating,” Command Central said. There was a pause.
“Tell me about this bond you talk about,” Command Central said. “To what do you attribute it?”
Yip looked down and frowned in a very non-dog way. “I can’t say it is because they take good of me. The two boys are inconsistent with my mealtime, they step on me occasionally, and the one called Bristol has a bad habit of pulling my ears. So that’s not it.”
“What is it, then?”
Yip paused, thinking. “I’m not sure, except that I know that I am needed here. The whole family depends on me. I am even considered part of the family.” He looked up at the ceiling again. “That must be it.”
“Very interesting indeed,” Command Central said. “But you know that changes nothing in regard to the invasion.”
Yip nodded, then thought before speaking. “In that case, I must let you know that I will resist you.”
“My duty lies with my humans,” Yip said. “I must do what I can to protect them.”
“You do realize that a small observer like you will be no match for our invasion force.”
“They have a saying here, Command. It goes like this: ‘It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.’ I highly advise you to steer clear of this family.”
There was another pause. “I see,” Command said. “Do other observers feel the way you do?”
“I am sure they do,” Yip said. “Just ask them.”
“Well in that case, we will have to delay the invasion and reconsider our alternatives. Command out.”
Yip switched off his skull implant and thought about the conversation. He was a very small dog, he knew. But it didn’t matter to him.
“Yip! Yip!” he heard the boys yell from the doorway. “Where are you boy?”
Yip smiled to himself as he ran from his doghouse and toward the two children. Yes, he had made the right decision.