Author : Suzanne Borchers

I am programmed to destroy the invaders’ outpost by pushing a hidden button on my exoscreen that is surrounded by artificial hair. While probing the captured alien’s centralized core, my masters discovered the invaders seem to trust a particular creature. I was reprogrammed into that image. I am repulsed by my disguise and must continually readjust that rejection. I cannot permit myself to think about anything except pushing that button.

But first, I must infiltrate their defensive sentries. I approach them filled with revulsion, but pretend friendliness. I cower and lower myself to the ground to scrape my belly as I crawl toward the sentry on the left. I’m programmed to wave a tail and to whimper. I want to fight the programming but continue to imitate the alien’s creature.

“Hey, look at the dog,” he says to his partner. “Here, fellow, don’t be afraid.” He reaches his hand toward my face. And I do not bite him, as he rubs behind my synthetic ears. Wait—why does that feel good?

“Watch it, Roy,” his partner says. “He might bite.” I force my gaze to shift to the partner, and whine. “What’s he doing here?” I don’t like the partner. He could ruin the plan.

“Jeff had a dog stowed away in the ship. Maybe when he was taken, the dog was also but escaped.” Roy’s fingers continue to rub my neck and back. I reach up to his hands for more. “He’s probably hungry and thirsty.”

The partner approaches me and I stifle a growl. A growl? I push against Roy. I feel myself lifted up and cuddled against his chest. Cuddled?

“In a couple of digits, when Ivan and John relieve us, I’m taking him inside. I’ll explain it to the captain and we can all share him. Maybe he can help us somehow with these recalcitrant aliens.” Roy hesitates, then says, “Maybe he can bring us a bit of home.” I pant and smile. Smile? Roy’s warmth feels good. I search my programming and cannot find out why.

I’m carried inside.

I am surrounded by warmth and soft words. I rest beside Roy. And now I cannot permit myself to think about anything except that button. Continually I search my programming for a way to dismantle it.

His fingers are too close to its hiding place.

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