Private Huffleman was concerned. He switched his grip to the PlasMark II and shoved it down, barrel first, towards the dog as it crept closer. The weapon’s barrel was shaking back and forth a little (Private Huffleman had never fired it in combat), but it was still aimed at the animal.
The dog, however, didn’t seem fazed. Instead, it sniffed at the weapon and then extended that long tongue and licked the barrel a couple of times. Private Huffleman flinched back, in case the animal’s saliva was toxic or acidic, but there didn’t seem to be any reaction.
After the licks, the animal flopped back down on its haunches and looked up at Private Huffleman again. It seemed perfectly content.
Slowly, still ready to react at a second’s notice, Private Huffleman holstered his weapon. Instead, he withdrew his supercomputer from its little pocket on his waist and pointed the built in camera at the dog. “Analyze,” he said, speaking as softly as he could to avoid inciting some sort of attack.
The supercomputer paused for a second, and then beeped. “Dog, subspecies poodle,” it announced in a crisp, faintly accented voice. Someone had once told Private Huffleman that the accent was called “Braitish.” He didn’t know what that meant, but went with it.
“Scientific name *Canis domesticus,*” the supercomputer went on. “Species originated on Earth several thousand years ago, as a domesticated breed that lived in a mutual relationship with early humans. Further genetic blending led to more intelligent Canids. This particular subspecies is known for being an excellent companion, as well as for frequent shedding.”
“Danger level?” Private Huffleman asked.
“Danger level two. Species may bite when threatened, and bite carries significant chance of infection. Generally docile and friendly. Warning signs include: raised hackles, growling, aggressive lunges.”
The dog hadn’t shown any of those signs. Private Huffleman relaxed a little more. “Toxicity?”
“Animal is non-toxic,” the computer told him. “In earlier times, the fur was often touched to relieve stress.”
Slowly, his fingers quaking, Private Huffleman extended his hand towards the dog. Its eyes locked on his hand, and it tilted its head as it examined the approaching appendage. It made no other movements, and very slowly, he touched the curly fur on the top of its head.
Indeed, the animal felt wonderfully soft – softer than most things that Private Huffleman touched during his day. The animal seemed to enjoy the contact, too, its eyes squeezing shut and scooting a little closer to him. He slid his hand down over its neck, rubbing along the length of its back. He wasn’t sure, but the dog appeared to grin.
Private Huffleman grinned back, but then his eyes rose up to the airlock hatch just ahead, and that grin faded. His orders were not to pet artifacts of the Improbability Drive. He was supposed to jettison them out the airlock.
At his feet, as if sensing his thoughts, the dog whined. The supercomputer hadn’t said anything about telepathy, but Private Huffleman quickly banished the thought of this poodle going out the airlock from his thoughts, just in case.
What was he going to do?