“Here,” Godfrey said, putting a plate of fries and a sandwich in front of April. “I haven’t been able to get hold of your mom yet.”
“What are you making so much food for?” April asked, surveying the counter. There was a plate of cookies sitting next to a stack of sandwiches and a humongous basket of fries
“It helps calm me,” Godfrey said.
“I don’t think cooking when your hands are shaking like that is a good idea,” she said.
Godfrey glanced down at his hands. They were shaking, even wrapped around a spatula. “Well, what you gonna do?” he asked, shrugging.
Mason came back into the stall from the greenhouse behind it. “I swept all the isles and turned on the watering system. That thing needs a serious upgrade, by the way.”
“Do you know why Sennett wouldn’t be answering a call?” Godfrey asked.
“Because she’s at work,” Mason said, reaching for a hand towel. “She’s probably doing something important.”
“What time is her shift over?” Godfrey asked.
“Why don’t I just send her a message, Grandpa?” Mason said. He shook his head, then tapped open his virtual visor. He started making typing motions with his hands. “What’s this big important thing you’ve got to tell her?”
Godfrey thought a minute. What was he supposed to say? He’d seen his father for only a few minutes, but it made him think the whole Earth was in danger? He thought someone might be on their way to endanger the station? He was scared, and he felt safer when Sennett was there? None of those seemed like the best things to tell her. “Just ask her if she saw that footage. Ask her if she has any idea what it might mean,” he said.
“Whatever,” Mason said.
April was looking toward the transit station. “Uncle Mason, I think someone’s hurt,” she said.
“Why?” Mason asked, not looking at her.
“Because they’re screaming,” she said.
That got both men’s attention. Mason’s visor turned off and Godfrey leaned over the counter to look in the direction that she was now pointing. “Can’t you hear them?” she asked.
Godfrey listened. After a few moments, he did hear screaming. But it didn’t sound like just one person as April had said. It sounded like a crowd.
“Come behind the counter,” he said, reaching for April. He lifted her off of her stool and set her down next to him. People were running past the stall. Some were calling for the police, some were just doing their best to get away, from what he couldn’t see yet.
One woman stopped long enough to say, “Get that little girl out of here, we’re under attack!” before running past.
“Under attack by what?” Mason asked.
Godfrey pushed a button under the counter. The steel shutter on the front of his stall came down, shutting out the street. “Stay here,” he said, “I’m going to find out what’s going on. Keep trying to reach Sennett. Try Ki, too.”
“But I want to see what’s going on,” April said.
“Hush,” Mason said, putting a hand on her shoulder. Godfrey slipped out of the side door.
The streets were flooded with screaming people, running from what looked like robotic dogs. One jumped on an Earth woman and started cutting her stomach open with a circular saw that extended from its middle. Godfrey ran for her, but just as he reached her a hand pulled him back. He turned to see Amy shaking her head. “Not her, she’s lost,” she cried, pointing across the aisle. “Get him!”
There was a Ma’sheed boy there, crouched behind another food stall, crying. Godfrey nodded and ran to get him. A dog lunged for him, only to be knocked back by a blast from Amy’s air gun. It was only distracted for a moment, though.
Godfrey ran to the boy. “Come with me,” he said, reaching for him. The child took his hand, and Godfrey turned back to where Amy was standing. She had an air gun in one hand and an electric pistol in the other. Godfrey scooped the child up into his arms and ran.
One of the dogs jumped, knocking into him. Godfrey fell, just barely managing not to land on the boy. The dog extended its saw, only to be knocked away by a Toth man who sold shaved ice a few stalls away from Godfrey’s. “Get up, Man!” he cried, holding a crowbar aloft in case another dog attacked.
Godfrey and the Ma’sheed boy scrambled to their feet. Together, the three of them ran for Godfrey’s stall. They reached the door and flung themselves inside just before a pack of dogs reached them.
Godfrey sat down on the ground hard. “Thank you,” he said to the Toth man.
“Of course,” the man said, “You are Councilman Anders, yes?”
“Just Godfrey,” he replied.
“Very well. My name is Othollo. I wish we were meeting under better circumstances,” the man said.
“Khal’Lee!” April cried, running to the boy. “Why weren’t you in school today?”
“What the hell is going on out there?” Mason cried before the boy could respond.
“Before I tell you, I’m going to have to ask that you suspend your disbelief,” Godfrey replied, “We seem to be under attack by robot dogs.”
“You’re shitting me,” Mason said.
“Did you get a hold of Sennett or Ki?” Godfrey asked.
“Not yet,” Mason said.
“Well, given the current circumstances, I’m sure she’s busy,” Godfrey said, “Okay, situation. We’re trapped in here by robot monsters, unarmed. Amy’s out there by herself trying to save everyone with two guns. Thoughts?”
“There are some tools we can use in the greenhouse,” Mason said.
“Good,” Godfrey said. He started towards the door to the greenhouse in the back of the stall. “ “Are you going out there again?” April asked.
“Honey, Amy’s all alone,” Godfrey said.
“I’ll come too,” Othollo said.
“I guess I’ll keep track of the kids, then,” Mason said.
Godfrey considered the tools for a moment, then chose a hand ax. After a moment of thought, he grabbed a metal trash can lid as well. A shield never hurt anybody, he reasoned.
He and Othollo headed out of the door. The dogs were everywhere. Godfrey saw people perched on top of stalls, huddled together. Some were still on the streets, running or trying to make stands with makeshift weapons.
Amy was easy to spot. She stood in front of a handful of people, firing with both of her weapons at the dogs that were circling them.
Godfrey had no combat training whatsoever. What he did have was the upper arm strength of someone who was raised on a farm. He swung his ax into the head of the nearest dog. It dented but didn’t split. “Well, that’s not great,” he said.
Othollo was swinging at the dogs with similar results. “They are horribly strong, aren’t they?” he said.
“I’m not great with all this technology,” Godfrey said, bringing his ax down into the hinge at the neck of the dented dog. This, at least, had the desired effect as the head of the dog broke away and slid along the floor.
“Get back in your stall,” Amy said, “You’re a civilian.”
“Because you’ve got this all under control, Officer?” Godfrey asked.
Amy sighed. “I liked it better when men stayed at home and kept house. Have you got the room in your place?”
“Yeah, plenty of room,” he said, swinging at a dog.
“Good,” Amy said. She waved to the handful of people behind her. “Let’s get going.”
Godfrey and Othollo led the way back toward his stall, doing their best to keep the dogs at bay. “Get back from the door,” Godfrey yelled, running the last few feet. He pulled the door open. A Khloe boy ran through, followed by a group of school age girls.
Then he heard Amy screaming. He turned to see her on the ground, a dog above her with its saw extended, cutting into her belly.
Godfrey ran for her, swinging at the dog with all of his strength. The ax head stuck in the dog’s body, he had to brace himself to pull it out. A teenage boy with a head full of curly blond hair lifted Amy off of the ground. “Where are we going?” he asked.
“This way,” Godfrey said, looking around for dogs.
They managed to get her through the door and into the greenhouse, where the others had collected. A dog banged into the door just as Godfrey got it closed.
Mason saw Amy and grabbed a couple of the blankets that Godfrey used to protect the plants when it was cold. “Set her down here,” he said.
Godfrey and the boy brought her to the spot and laid her down. “I’m an intern at the hospital,” the boy said, pulling a white box from his belt. Godfrey recognized it as an emergency care kit. “Hey, I’m Eric,” the boy said, kneeling next to her, “Don’t worry, I’m going to get you cleaned up, okay? Can you tell me your name?”
“Amy Wilson,” she said, wincing. “I think I’m going to need a little more than cleaned up.”
“Nah, you’ll be fine,” Eric said, “This is nothing.” The smile he gave her said otherwise. He pulled open her shirt and pressed a cloth from his kit against the wound.
Godfrey’s wrist pad, a gift forced upon him by Sennett, lit up. “Godfrey?” Ki said. Her quartz like pink hair was shining with a line of sweat along her brow. Her red skin was flushed, her eyeliner smudged. He’d never seen her look so out of her element.
“Your timing couldn’t be better,” Godfrey said, “You wouldn’t believe what’s going on here.”
“Please tell me it’s a bunch of homicidal robotic dogs,” Ki said, “Because that’s what’s happening here and I don’t think we can handle anything else right now.”
“Well, good new then,” Godfrey said, “Officer Wilson is hurt, can you look at her through this thing?”
“Yeah, take me over there,” Ki said.
Godfrey held up his wrist so that she could see Amy and Eric. “I’m going to need you to lift that cloth up, Intern,” she said.
“Yes, Doctor,” Eric said, carefully lifting it.
“She’s probably got internal bleeding,” Ki said, “Have you done your training on INR’s?”
“Yes, but I haven’t really used them before,” Eric said.
“What are INR’s?” April whispered.
“Internal nanite repairs,” Mason said.
A banging sound on the wall caught Godfrey’s attention. “I’m giving you to Eric,” he said to Ki, then took his wrist pad off and set it next to the boy.
“What are we going to do if they come through the walls?” Mason asked.
“Boy I wish I had an answer to that question,” Godfrey said.
The kids were huddled together, looking around them as the robot dogs crashed into the greenhouse from every side. “What’s going on?” one of the girls asked.
“That’s another good question,” Godfrey said.
“Oh, shit,” Eric whispered. Amy was choking, blood was coming from her mouth.
“Uncle Mason, help her!” April cried.
“I can’t,” Mason said, “I’m not a doctor.”
Amy was reaching for Eric. “I, I need-,” she said. Then she laid back onto the blanket. She wasn’t choking anymore. She wasn’t breathing anymore either.
“My God, she’s dead,” one of the girls whispered.
Godfrey set a hand on her neck, just to prove to himself that there was no pulse. April and Khal’lee started crying, as the banging continued from outside.
“Godfrey,” Ki said sharply from his wrist pad. He picked up his wrist pad. “We just lost her,” he said.
“I know, and I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but we don’t have the time to mourn her right now. We need to focus on getting the rest of you out of there. We’ve got the hospital on lock down.”
“Why don’t we stay here,” Godfrey said, “The dogs can’t get us here.”
“What if someone else gets injured?” Ki asked, “What if the dogs break through your greenhouse? Godfrey, are you really comfortable betting all of those people’s lives on a greenhouse you put together yourself?”
“Okay, come get us, then,” Godfrey said.
“Yeah, I can’t actually do that,” Ki said, “All of our personal transporters have been disabled.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because we’re on lock down and the hospital officials don’t want all of us leaving to get our families.”
“That complicates things,” Godfrey said, “How am I supposed to get these people up there?”
“They’ll listen to you,” Ki said, giving him a smile. “You’re convincing like that. Just get to me safe.”
“I will,” he said, though he didn’t feel nearly as confident as he was trying to sound. He strapped his wrist pad back on and turned to face the others.
“The hospital has been established as a safe house. I intend to head that way,” he said.
“How?” Mason asked, “I can’t imagine the transit’s still running.”
“We’ll have to try,” Godfrey said. As he spoke, he heard the sound of dogs hammering on the outside of the greenhouse. “Look, I don’t know how long this place will hold. If we’re at the hospital, the authorities know where we are and they can help us.”
“But what if Mommy comes here looking for us?” April asked.
“Have we heard from her?” Godfrey asked.
“No, nothing,” Mason said.
“Most likely she’s dealing with this situation. Mason, it’s up to you, though. I’m not April’s guardian. Look, I’m not going to insist that any of you come with me. If you want to stay in the greenhouse, you’re more than welcome. Help yourself to as much food as you want. If any of you want to come with me, I only promise that I’ll do anything I can to get you there safely.”
Another dog hit the wall, denting it.
“I think I’ll trust you on this one,” Mason said, giving the dent a wary look.
“I am happy to come with you as well,” Othollo said.
Godfrey knelt in front of Khal’Lee. “Honey, where’s your mom and dad?” he asked.
“My dad’s at work,” Khal’Lee said.
“Who were you at the market with?” Othollo asked.
“And why weren’t you at school?” April asked.
“Um,” Khal’Lee said, “I kind of skipped.”
“We don’t have time for that,” Godfrey said, “The only thing that matters right now is keeping you kids safe until we get you back with your parents. Can you trust me to do that?”
The boy looked up at him, his brilliant glowing eyes wide. “Yes, sir,” he said.
“Good boy,” Godfrey said, “Who else is coming?”
Eric and the other teenagers looked at each other. “I’ll come,” he said, and the others nodded in agreement.
“Okay,” Godfrey said, “If we’re going to be risking our lives together, girls, we should at least know everyone’s names. I’m Godfrey, this is Mason and April.” He pointed toward each person as he said their name. “You seem to already know Eric, but that’s Khal’Lee and Othollo.”
The three Earthian girl’s looked at each other. “I’m Calli,” one pale girl, with blond hair and a large pair of ornamental glasses said.
“Becca,” said the second, who had a head full of braids and a Foundation Party pin on the front of her shirt.
“Connie,” said the last one. She was easily the tallest, in fact, taller than anyone in the room.
Finally, the Khloe boy spoke. “My name’s Tu,” he said.
“Godfrey,” Mason said, “You should take Officer Wilson’s weapons.”
“Why me?” Godfrey asked.
“Because you have the most experience with guns,” Mason replied.
Godfrey sighed. He picked up Amy’s weapon and tucked it into his belt. “Stay close everyone.”
Othollo cracked the door open. There were only two dogs in sight. Godfrey shot one, but it shook off the blast and ran for them. Mason brought a crowbar down on its head, but it kept coming. Othollo swung his pipe.
The dog lunged at Mason. He hit it hard with his crowbar, launching it a few feet. “Damn they’re heavy,” he cried, holding his arm.
“I have him!” Othollo cried, jumping between Mason and the dog.
Again, the dog ran around Othollo to get to Mason.
Godfrey, fighting his own dog, couldn’t stop it. Mason jammed his crowbar into the dog’s open mouth, then wrenched it upward.
The dog broke open, spilling organs out onto the ground.
“It wouldn’t come near me,” Othollo said. He walked over to the dog that Godfrey was fighting and gave it a solid kick in its side. It whimpered, shying away from him before launching itself at Godfrey again.
He shot again, finally disabling it. Mason crouched down, inspecting the organ’s that had fallen from the first dog. “These are all Earthling,” he said, “And they’re all in good condition. I think they’re harvesting them.”
“How do you know they’re Earthling?” Eric asked.
“I’m a biologist,” Mason said, “I’d be a piss poor student if I couldn’t tell Earth organs from others.”
“What’s a tech freak like you studying biology for?” Godfrey asked.
“Because I want to make biotech,” Mason said, “Hey, can you judge my life later if I still have it?”
“Does that mean the dogs won’t attack me?” Othollo asked.
“Maybe,” Mason said, “Or maybe it’s just this one dog that’s programmed to collect human organs and other dogs are programmed to collect Toth organs.”
“I hadn’t thought of it in that way,” Othollo said.
“How about we get to the transit station without attracting too many more of these things?” Godfrey asked. Even as he spoke, they could hear more dogs coming around the corner of the greenhouse. He knelt to grab Khal’Lee and pull him onto his back. Mason did the same with April, and they ran.
When the transit was in site, Godfrey risked a look back. There were a handful of dogs just behind them, but he could see more in the distance, gaining fast.
Suddenly April screamed. Godfrey turned to see Mason sprawled on the ground, he must have tripped. A dog jumped towards her and caught hold of her jacket.
Then it stopped. It let go of her and started sniffing her all over. Then it sat down and yipped at her.
Mason scrambled to his feet. He scooped her up and kept running.
A transit train was waiting at the station, having just arrived. Godfrey jumped for it, the others just a moment behind him. When they were all in he turned and started firing, keeping the dogs at bay until the doors closed and the transit left the station.