Author : James C.G. Shirk
CANINE STUDIES INSTITUTE HQ
(Abr. Final Project Report)
Status: One survivor Breed: Retriever (mixed)
Name: Pita Sex: Male
Age: 5 Weeks Pathology: Infected w/CCDV
Prognosis: Terminal within two weeks.
End of Report
Submitted by: Dr. Anthony Tolson, Director CSI, Mars Colony proper. Date: 10/22/2145
“What do we do now?” Dr. Hillary Kurtz asked. Her gloved hands, sticking through the enclosure’s side port access, trembled as the puppy suckled the bottle of enriched milk.
“There’s nothing left to do,” I replied. Anger clawed at my gut, begging for release. “Damn it! We did everything to protect them from the virus. We spent years in research; we formulated every conceivable anti-viral; we put them in controlled enclosures to prevent disease-carrying contact, and when all that didn’t work, we moved the last surviving dogs here to be clear of any earthly pathogens…and for what! The whole attempt has been an abject failure. My failure.”
“Don’t take it personally,” Kurtz said, putting aside the bottle and wiping mucus from Pita’s eyes. “Species have gone extinct before, hundreds of thousands of them. Viruses adapt, sometimes beyond our ability to contain them. The virulent ones can get buried in the species DNA. There’s nothing we can do about that.”
I nodded. “But nothing like that has ever happened to a creature so close to man,” I said, “and to have failed–. It’s just too much.”
“Sometimes God’s plan is unfathomable,” Kurtz said hopefully. She was a devout believer; I, not so much.
“If so, He must be mad at man,” I replied, perhaps a little too curtly.
She turned her attention back to feeding the puppy. “Why do you say that?” she asked.
“Religion and science don’t mix well,” I said. “Perhaps all our technical achievements displeased your God, and it was his hand that took the one thing from man that is irreplaceable in order to teach us a lesson.”
“You’re an idiot,” she grumbled.
Pita stopped nursing at the bottle and burped contentedly. The recorders surrounding him gathered data, analyzing everything, including the presence of the virus in his system.
Not that it mattered now.
I pushed back the enclosure’s protective covering and reached inside with my bare hands; no need for precautions any more. I petted his head and scratched his milk-filled, pink belly. His blue puppy-eyes glazed over at my touch, and he licked appreciatively at my fingers. “Mankind will be less without them,” I moaned.
An alarm went off behind me. I rushed to the monitoring console to examine the readouts. Something had happened to Pita, something extraordinary.
“What is it?” Kurtz yelled over the din.
I slammed the monitor button, killing the noise. “I don’t believe it! The virus is dying. At this rate, it will be completely out of his system in minutes.”
“How can that be?” Kurtz said.
I shook my head, wondering. Why so late? Why did this happen when there was just one animal left? And then it struck me.
God’s hand? Man’s hand? My hand? Pita just received the first unprotected contact from a human in years. Some insignificant thing on my fingers found its way into Pita’s system when he licked me. That had to be it! Irony upon irony. The disease had only endured, because we denied dogs the one thing they ever wanted from us. Human contact.
“What now?” Kurtz asked for the second time today.
I smiled. “We clone.”
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