Clarion

We walked back to the station together. Einstein shambled along, leaving flipper prints in the snow. I stepped in and out of them, noting that his feet were roughly the size of mine. Spegg walked ahead, occasionally sniffing at the air. The rain had stopped and there were a few flakes milling about—it was evening and getting cold.

We scaled the foothills back into the valley. Spegg led the way, his hands buried in his pockets, managing the slope without any visible degree of exertion. Einstein handled the terrain better than I thought he would have, in a zig-zag sort of fashion, using the back of his wrists to brace himself against the craggy terrain as he bounded upward. He occasionally stopped and looked back at me as I slipped and cursed my way to the top.

Spegg summited first, and when Einstein reached the top, he glanced back a couple of times, and then they both disappeared over the other side. I stopped to rest, breathing hard through my mouth, my nose a mess of broken cartilage and sticky blood. The snow was falling harder in the foothills. I took off my gloves and breathed hot air into my hands. And that’s when I heard Buzz.

I trained my ear toward the summit. He was barking ferociously. Where the hell did he come from? I stuffed my gloves in my pockets and scrambled up the edge, grabbing onto the volcanic rock with my bare hands and wrenching myself forward. His barking got louder and louder, panicked, angry snaps. Only a few feet more to go and I crested the foothills, barreling over the top and down the other side into the valley.

Spegg and Einstein were a few hundred meters out under the shadow of one of the radio antennae, and Buzz was nearly upon them. When I hit the valley floor I broke into a sprint, waving my hands, yelling Buzz’s name, but he ignored my calls and lunged at the new LMO.

“Buzz, no!” I screamed.

Einstein went down. Spegg leaped away and scampered up the dish’s ladder.

“Buzz!” I tried again, waving. “Jesus Fucking Christ! Buzz!” Nothing. Blood spilled into the snow.

I roared and tackled Buzz, detaching him from the LMO. There was a yelp, followed by the sharp, heavy agony of his teeth on my arm, and then he was back up and on top of Einstein. My arm grew warm under my jacket as the blood spilled out.

“Buzz, stop!” I screamed from my knees. Buzz tore a chunk out of the LMO’s proboscis. Einstein’s limbs flailed, batting at the dog, and Buzz ravaged those as well. Blood spattered the ice. My own blood slithered onto my left hand and dripped into the snow. It was the same color. I suddenly remembered Einstein’s face as he looked back at me on the slope, like a child checking up on his father. And now pieces of that face were being ripped apart and scattered in the desert. Anger welled up from dark places I did not know existed.

I reached for my lockblade and pounced on the husky.