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14

The Dog was running, obviously. Making its way across the continent. Faster than anything these people had created. Naturally, the machinery aboard the ship had already mapped the entire planet well before it ever reached orbit, and Dog-compatible software had a long time ago implanted that knowledge into the mind of Sains’s Martian companion.

But still, it needed to go and see for itself. Run on all the roads, and trails, and pistes. Progressively draw its own little maps in its weird little brain, and superimpose them on the maps we gave it.

Ask any of the so-called specialists who spent their lives studying the Dogs and they give you very detailed answers as to why that is. The problem is that the answers so very rarely match. This is not an exception: when it comes to the Dogs, the egg-heads back on Earth will provide you with hundred of possible, and often very detailed, reasons for anything you care to mention. The conclusion once again is obvious: no one has any valid answer. Somebody, somewhere may have discovered the truth but he or she may as well not have bothered: there is no way to recognise it in the hundred of competing theories. No, not even theories: hypotheses would be a far better word.

Anyway, they didn’t know why the Dogs love to run that much. Didn’t have a clue.

But Sains? Well, the guy may have been on to something.. He has after all “tasted” the mind of a Dog, which is something that very few people can say. He has been with them on Mars; he has been them. He has known the joy of running. I know that nowadays he is not the most popular person on Earth – in fact, he is one of the most hated – but still, we have to recognise that maybe he had a little more insight than all these people and their fancy ideas.

He always said he felt that something bad happened a long time ago. Something very bad. He didn’t think it happened to the Dogs, though, that’s the funny thing. Maybe not even to the old Martians. Rather to their distant ancestors. So we are talking about long, long ago. Millions of years. But he insisted that whatever it was, it really must have been bad, it really fucked them up.

He never really gave much details but he always insisted that whatever he felt in a Dog’s mind was not joy. He said people always got that wrong. It’s not joy, he said, that a Dog feels when it runs. It something else, something subtly different.

He said it was relief.

 

15

Sains was not an idiot, you know. Actually “not an idiot” is rather a bit of an understatement. In happier, more sane times, he would certainly have been one of our race’s great scientists. A man able to gather, understand and digest huge quantities of information and to find the minute, remote piece of data that unite them all. A genius really.

But we do not live in a happy, or even a sane age. So we made him a soldier instead.

And what a soldier he was! Richard E. Sains conquered more planets for the Empire than anybody else before or since. He had the perfect mix of raw intelligence, total ruthlessness and sheer luck that turned him into the most efficient conquering machine we ever had.

So, in order to make the most of all that talent, we gave him the best and biggest ship we ever build, the most awesome weapons, all the products of two race’s ingenuity. And we sent him to the most faraway planets, to expand and consolidate the glory of man. To show our power to the stars.

And he also had his Dog, obviously.

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