#9 Cat Person
Derek is talking to Sarah.
Uncle Derek: "We need a watchdog then we won't need Future John's pet anymore." (referring, of course, to Cameron) "As a bonus, the dog might even chase it away." (pointing at Cameron who was silently listening to the conversation)
Cameron had her usual expression. She never objected to these verbal attacks on her. That bothered Derek. Her 'usual expression' might be interpreted as vigilance, hostility, wide-eyed innocence, inability to tone down a direct gaze, or directness. He made a mental note to never play poker with her. He would have been shocked if he had seen another expression that John had seen often: the determined look of search & destroy posture whenever she spotted someone following John and the time when she was trying to kill John.
Sarah: "How about a cat instead? Cats will wake you if the house is burning."
John: "A cat is a bad idea. It might infect the pregnant landlady."
Sarah smiled thinking that John had seen too many episodes of House.
John continued: "And a dog is more practical. If Cameron is to fit in and be able to infiltrate, then she's going to have to come to terms with dogs."
Sarah: "If you want a dog, then go to the dog pound with Cameron and if any dog likes Cameron, then you can have that dog."
Derek was watching Cameron closely and Cameron was aware of it. Cameron was always aware of Derek's scrutiny and was determined to measure up to his standards. She considered her uncle to be her drill sergeant and though she obeyed her mother Sarah and protected her brother John, ultimately it was Uncle Derek she wanted to impress. An impossible task but a task she willingly undertook. Did he see the fleeting look of fear in her eyes at the mention of being around dogs? Did she suppress the look quickly enough to prevent Uncle Derek from detecting it? At least she didn't swallow at that inopportune moment. Maybe she got away with it.
John: "That's the same as saying no."
Sarah: "Exactly." Sarah silently congratulated herself on her motherly cleverness.
John went anyway. As John drove to the pound with Cameron, she was even more quiet than usual. Cameron knew it was irrational to be nervous. She was a terminator after all but canines were quadrupeds, fast, maneuverable, and left exterior damage to the organic sheath. Worse, they barked loudly and betrayed one's presence when stalking and betrayed one's cover when infiltrating. This, in turn, caused a cascade of other reactions because terminators were designed for killing humans. Other species had different behavior that was not completely understood.
Humans were inferior and dogs even more inferior. Dogs existed in a symbiotic relationship with humans. This should have been enough information. But dogs had hearing and sense of smell outside human range. Unlike dogs of previous times, Twenty-First Century dogs looked both ways before crossing a street but it had taken a lot of dead dogs for the species to learn that lesson. Dogs also had puzzling behavior. Dogs were doggedly loyal to humans even when humans abused them but an individual dog might pull up stakes and seek another owner. One dog had even dialed the operator on a cellphone when its master was unconscious. All this was enough to give even a terminator with a gun, pause.
At the pound, every dog freaked out at the very sight of Cameron. Every dog except the one at the end. It was a sad dog despite not being a Basset Hound or a Bloodhound. It was silent and obviously suffering from recent wounds. It was a big heavily scarred pit-bull.
The dog slowly and painfully dragged itself to its feet. It knew the drill. Probably going to be shot and left to die if it lost a fight. Or sent to the gas chamber. The usual fate of pit-bulls. The final ignominy of a dog's life.
Cameron took one look at the dog. She swallowed.
John had been making small talk about this and that. Too small. Too large. Too diseased. Too this or that. But he abruptly stopped, sensing a change in Cameron.
The dog wagged its tail tentatively. Not the eternal optimism of a typical dog but recognition. A hyena laughs. A Basenji rarely barks but will yodel when excited. A pit-pull was unique among canids in that its jaw would lock like a snake. Even killing a pit-bull would not release its death-grip.
The dog came forward. Cameron squatted and tried, as best she could, to reach through the mesh wire to touch the face of the dog. Cameron looked up at John with big moist eyes.
On the way home, Cameron hugged the dog on her lap. John glanced over while driving, unsure what to make of it. Dogs generally will lick (or bite) one's face if you let them get close to it. This dog was respectful and not once did it try to lick Cameron's face. Despite that, it was obvious that the dog loved Cameron. The dog did not jump all over John or jostle his elbow -- as if it understood that he was driving and didn't want to cause a wreck. Most dogs were too stupid to comprehend such things. For once, here was something more puzzling than Cameron.
John made a detour. He stopped by a veterinarian and asked the nurse for an appointment for a checkup for the dog. Fortunately the day was slow and they had an opening in fifteen minutes. Instead of waiting in the waiting room with hostile creatures (dogs, snakes, parrots, and "What is that?"), Cameron left to walk to a nearby pet supply store and be back by the time the checkup was done at the vet.
John whispered to the nurse even though Cameron had already left.
John: "Can you check this dog for anything strange like chips, metal, toxins, and so forth?"
Nurse: "Why? Do you think she's been part of an experiment at one of those Silicon Valley biotech companies?"
John: "You tell me. I just don't want to take any chances."
Nurse: "Sure we can check for an I.D. chip right away. I think we have a metal detector too. But tox screen resultswill take a couple of days."
A half an hour later Cameron returned to the vet with a bag. Mercifully, she did not have to wait long in the waiting room with all the owners of various exotic animals. Were they the only people who owned a dog? Even the tarantula in the little plastic box on a woman's lap and the koi in the giant baggy seemed freaked by Cameron's presence. John wondered if the possibility of a stampede had caused the staff to expedite his dog's appointment. One of the perks of having a terminator as your sister he thought wryly.
As the nurse led the dog out on a temporary leash, Cameron pulled a high-tech leash from the bag, replaced it and handed the temporary leash back to the nurse.
They went out to their parking space and John noticed that there were two big heavy sacks of dog food and a dog bed or basket in the bed of the truck. Cameron must have carried the sacks on one shoulder and the shopping bag in the other hand and basket under her arm. People would have been staring and wondering how a petite girl could carry such a heavy load.
John: "Cameron, I thought I had pointed out to you to not show off your strength because it attracts attention."
In the truck headed home, John glanced over at Cameron petting the dog. He liked the dog but something wasn't right. He couldn't put his finger on it. The preliminary exam showed that it wasn't a terminator dog. Oh my God! He realized he was jealous of the dog.
John: "Whatcha got in the bag?"
Cameron: "Some doggie snacks, spike collar, I'll have to sharpen the spikes, vest but not bulletproof, dog shampoo, dog breath spray, tartar control chews, dog brush, book on dog care, really for all of you since I speed read it in the store, dog vitamins, basic dog medicine like heart worm pills, blanket, pooper scooper which you will be using since you're the one who wanted a dog, and dog whistle for you since I can vocalize ultrasound if necessary."
John: "You can? What other superpowers do you have?"
Cameron: "Do you always have to say something like that to ruin the mood? I thought this was a happy family occasion."
That remark was more surprising than the news of yet another ability of Cameron. John glanced over. Cameron looked up from playing with the dog with a mischievous wink.
At home, Derek and Sarah were beginning to be worried about why it took three hours to go to the dog pound and back. Presumably empty- handed and presumably with Cameron covered with dog saliva from so many furious barking dogs. They were in the driveway when the truck pulled up.
Derek: "Here comes the dog."
Cameron: (to Derek) "I'm not a dog." (to the dog) "Not that there's anything wrong with being a dog."
Sarah: (to John) "This dog looks like it's been abused."
Derek: "Does it have the heart to fight?"
Derek immediately raises a hand as if to forestall remarks. "I apologize." Derek bends down to pet the dog and talk to it. "I didn't mean dogfights. You'll never have to do that again." Covertly wipes his eyes dry before looking up at Cameron. "If she's not freaked out by you and you're okay with her, then what happens if a terminator shows up?"
Cameron: "I'll have her trained before then."
Sarah: (to John) "What are you going to name her?"
Sarah: "Hell no."
'Skynet' growls, she doesn't like the name either.
Sarah: "Speaking of which, what if -- "
John: "Give yourself credit for having taught me. I had the dog checked by a vet on the way back from the pound."
Sarah: "So that's what took three hours."
John: "Still have to wait for drug test results but I'm pretty sure it’s not terminator dog or robo-dog or dyno-mutt."
Cameron turned her head to look away and Sarah got the distinct impression that Cameron was laughing. Cameron wiped the smile off her face and looked back.
Cameron: "Dynomutt or Robodog or T-D are good names."
John: "Terminator Dog or touchdown if your taste runs to Superbowl references. Cylons versus the terminators."
Sarah: "Spuds McKenzie. But seriously, John what name did you use at the vet? For her?"
Sarah: "Kind of generic don't you think?"
Cameron: "Generic, like me."
Derek: "There is nothing generic about you."
Cameron: (stubbornly insistent this time) "Fido."
Fido barks approval.
Sarah: "Fido it is."
Cameron makes introductions.
Cameron: (pointing to herself) "Cameron."
Fido makes three syllables but not as articulate as Astro, the Jetson's superintelligent dog. Picking up on the cue, John speaks next.
John: (pointing to himself) "John."
Fido barks once.
Derek: (points to himself) "Derek."
Fido this time does an eerily Astro impression.
Derek jumps back startled.
Sarah: (points to herself) "Sarah, top bitch."
Fido: "Bowwow, bowwow." Fido wags its tail at the sound of Sarah.
Sarah: "And don't sniff me." I already know I'm at risk for cancer, Sarah was going to say.
Satisfied that John is alright, Derek heads off to take care of business and Sarah goes back into the house.
John still thinks that Fido is too smart to be a dog.
John and Cameron go to wash Fido.
Cameron: "Relax John. She's just a dog."
Fido, sensing that Cameron has a problem with water, picks up the water hose with its mouth and drenches her with the wet spray.