from author Robert E. Birnschein
One Man's Best Friend
David was pulling on his second work boot when a cold nose nuzzled his hand. He smiled at the long haired black Labrador yawning tiredly at his side. “Oh, dragged yourself out of bed to say good morning, eh Max?” He affectionately rubbed the dog's head and neck, and brown eyes of depth-less friendship met his. “It is early, I'll give you that,” David continued, rising to leave, “But it's gonna be a busy day in the rock.”
Asteroid mining had boomed and corporations chased after the best and brightest geologists and mineralogists. Experienced and well known in the field, David had readily signed on after seeing the bonus Sol-Corp was offering. Inwardly, David hoped the dangers and responsibilities would also distract his mind from painful memories, still devastatingly fresh. Only Max had given him enough reason to carry on. So he'd come to the asteroid three months ago, bringing along his faithful friend and not much else. David spent his contract days directing the myriad of tunnels as they were carefully bored through the asteroid, the dog following happily at his heels.
Despite the early hour, his master was heading for the door so the dog made to follow, half curled tail wagging expectantly. “Sorry buddy, not today.” Reluctantly the dog lay down with his head on his paws, looking forlorn. David gave him a smile as he slipped out the door, “Be a good boy.”
Late in the day the company's powdermen finished prepping explosives that would shear through the South end of the oblong asteroid. The immense, calved shard would drift off until the closing mining ship could scoop it into it's cavernous maw for processing.
Covered with rock dust, David entered the utilitarian but busy control room at the North end of the mile long asteroid. He took a seat at a worn console and called up tunnel camera feeds, double checking the explosives stitched throughout the rock. The relentless countdown clock showed a mere ten minutes from detonation. Outside, the mining ship would be maneuvering into proper position. At this point, anything that threw off the delicate timing and caused the huge spaceship to be repositioned for a second attempt would cost the company millions.
A voice rose over the others in the room. Johnson, the rock commander, working the radio, calling out a verbal head count to be sure that all personnel had reached the safe zone.
A flash of shadow drew David's eye. Who was still in the tunnels? Quickly he clicked to the next camera.
His heart stopped.
Nose to the rocky ground, the Lab was trotting down the abandoned tunnel, searching for David.
All eyes in the control room swung to the monitor. After a moment Johnson spoke, sadly understanding, “It's too late David, there's no time.”
Max, his friend...
David broke from his chair and rushed out the door, racing toward the impending blast zone. “MAX!”
Johnson's desperate voice echoed unheeded behind him, “We can't stop the countdown!”
My warmhearted dog Jack recently past away. He came to live with me when he was three, and we had nine great years of friendship. Jack, as any faithful dog, was there with me in both good times and low times. A playful pest, incurable beggar, tennis ball aficionado, and with eyes that always showed love. And though he was not good with providing useful feedback, he did patiently listen as I edited and read out loud my many stories. I miss our walks, trips to the dog park, and hanging out like the middle aged bachelors we were. The house is now far too quiet and I miss him more than words can say.
Below is a sci-fi short story I wrote a few years ago about the strong bond between one particular man and his own K9 friend. It is fitting now that I dedicate it in honor of my own sadly lost Labrador.
Copyright Robert E. Birnschein. All rights reserved.