Timmy watched as the alpha walked up to the stopped vehicle. The strobes of the police Explorer unit, flashing in the dark of night, did nothing to distract his attention. He was focused on the alpha, the leader of the pack, his master. Timmy had no true concept that he was in a police cruiser or even what a car was. He knew nothing of the fact that some considered him to be a very high-priced piece of city equipment. He didn’t know, nor was he capable of knowing, that his initial four months of K9 training had cost the City of Gunwood nearly forty thousand dollars in man hours, training aids, food, and veterinary bills. What he did comprehend, at least in the primal, animalistic way that all canines comprehend, was that the alpha was the source of all that was good.
And so, Timmy watched and waited, ready to respond to any sign of danger—eager to uncap the barely suppressed drives held in check by discipline learned over all those months of training.
Timmy was a one hundred twenty-five-pound German Shepherd from Siberia, or so his papers from Europe claimed. In reality, his bloodline had been somewhat clouded over the generations so that there was a smattering of Tibetan mastiff, a touch of Irish wolfhound, a pinch of St. Bernard, a dash of Australian shepherd, and a teaspoon of Arctic wolf. He was, in fact, a stew of genetic manipulation that had resulted in something akin to Frankenstein’s monster.
He was not a pretty dog. He was big, thick-boned, slabbed with muscle. His power was in his jaws and his haunches. He could run for days, but his true strength was in the short quick attack, where his size, mass, and exploding burst of lightning speed stunned and then immobilized his opponents. His snout was a roadmap of scars acquired in countless battles with other canines, humans, and various animals of differing sizes and poundages that roamed and hunted the Siberian badlands. His ears were chipped and battered but still stood tall. His head was large and angular with ropy tendons and muscles that wrapped from his massive jaws to the top of his skull. His eyes were an eerie gray that always looked hungry.
The alpha glanced back at him, his eyebrows creased down. The alpha was a giant compared to most humans, as much over his fellow man as Timmy was over other canines. Timmy had seen him break many of the men he fought, and he had never seen him lose a battle. Timmy respected the alpha’s fighting prowess, but that was not why he followed him—not why he obeyed his commands.
Life had not been easy in Siberia. It was cold. There was snow—always snow. Food was scarce and came only after the hunt. And there were men. Men with traps and nets and guns.
The traps ranged from small to huge. Some of them, those meant for bears, could snap a dog’s leg completely off. The nets were inescapable. Neither teeth nor claws had any effect on them. Once netted, the battle was over. Guns were, in some ways, less dangerous—at least in the woods. The heavy growth of trees made for only short-range shots.
It was a net that captured Timmy.
He’d just killed an Ibex that had wandered down from the nearby Verkhoyansk mountain range and had the horned beast by the throat, strangling its life away as his teeth crushed the airway closed. The weight of the animal had thrown his balance off for just an instant, but in that instant, he heard and felt the twang of a branch as it sprang free from pent-up tension.
Timmy knew that sound and jumped to the side, but the Ibex’s horns caught under his front leg costing him a fraction of speed. He tried to reset, bunching his muscles and jumping with all his strength, dropping his hard-earned prey as he did—but it was too late. The buried net whipped his paws out from under him and lifted him bodily from the snow-covered ground. He was hauled fifteen feet into the air, where he bounced and swayed for two nights and a day before the humans came for him. The Ibex, long since recovered, had trotted away to its high mountain ranges.
The alpha spoke loudly, his tone changing octaves. Timmy couldn’t understand words—language. Instead, he caught and translated tones—rhythms—the tensing of muscles—the change in stance—volume—increased pheromone output—the rush of blood through the jugular and carotid—sweat—anger—fear.
As the car lurched forward, the alpha reached inside and grabbed the driver by the face. The car continued as the driver was dragged through the window and held aloft by the strength of the alpha’s arms. The squealing tires caught traction, and the vehicle veered into a light pole, smashing the hood and shattering the headlights.
Four men streamed from the car, all running at the alpha. The alpha grinned, and Timmy heard the door beside him snap open—the alpha had triggered the automatic door popper his K9 vehicle came equipped with for just such an occasion.
There was a blur of motion, and three of the rushing men stopped in their tracks. The fourth was gone. He had been there, running in front at the big cop that held their friend, and then he wasn’t. It was like magic—only scarier.
And then came the screams—screams and the sound of tearing.
The three remaining prey felt the hair on their arms and the back of their necks rise to abrupt attention. The car’s impact had taken out the streetlight, and the enclosing dark obscured all but the vaguest images of movement, but the sounds, oh the sounds—guttural—horrific—the stuff of nightmares.
Suddenly the screaming stopped—and that was the most frightening thing of all.
They stood there, the three of them, frozen in place, eyes darting this way and that—and then there were two.
When it was all over, after cover had arrived and all the suspects had been taken into custody or to the hospital, Timmy sat quietly by the alpha’s side, tongue lolling, tattered ears perked. There was an abrasion over his left eye where the third suspect had punched him—once. It had made Timmy mad.
The trappers had considered killing Timmy the night they took him down from the net. They had thought a couple of days without food or water would break him.
They were wrong.
Two of them had been badly mauled, even through their thick coats and heavy leggings. It had taken three tranquilizer darts and several blows from a stout club to subdue him.
Finally, it was decided that he could bring them a profit—or at least make up for the medical costs of their comrades—if they sold him as a working dog. There were European brokers who scoured the land looking for canines with suitable drives and character traits for police, military, or sport work.
Timmy had been crated and shipped from one place to the next, barely fed, his throat constantly parched, living in his own filth for over two weeks. On the few occasions he came in contact with humans, they were wary, having been warned. They were sometimes brutal, always harsh and brusque—until he made it to America and met the alpha.
The alpha had opened the crate, letting in sunshine—the first sign of the sun he’d seen in several days. And fresh air.
Timmy’s instinct was to fight—to kill. But there was something different about the alpha. He spoke to him calmly, quietly, in soothing tones. He moved slowly and with grace—none of the brutish bursts of quick energy the humans who had packed and unpacked, crated and uncrated, shoved, pushed, and dragged him about. Still, instincts were instincts, and when the alpha first put his fingers toward the barred crate, Timmy lunged, snapping his great teeth at where the fingers had been. But the alpha had not given up. He gave Timmy water and a small amount of food. And finally, after numerous attempts, the alpha succeeded in touching him while he was drinking from the bowl of water. Timmy growled, but for a reason he could not fathom, he did not attack. Not then—not later.
The alpha suddenly noticed the lump over Timmy’s eye and reached down to examine it more closely. His face turned white, and Timmy smelled his scent change from a peaceful easy pattern to a killing rage.
“Who did this to you?” It was the barest of whispers, but it held death and destruction. “Which one of them, boy?”
Timmy could not understand the words, but somehow, he knew—he knew.
The alpha cradled Timmy’s massive head in his hands, rubbing gently at the injury and stroking the fur of his skull. Tears started in the big man’s eyes, rolling freely down his cheeks.
No, Timmy did not obey the alpha’s commands because of his fighting ability, his size, or his strength—he obeyed him because of love.