Friendly Crotch Squid

 

 

“Hi there!  Name’s Louis Fulbright.  You must be the new hire.  Welcome to the Crow’s Nest.  Great to meet you!  Great to see you, really.  I wasn’t sure when corporate would send you out here.  Flight go okay?  Sleep well enough?  Good.  Good.  Welcome to the observation deck.  You’ll be spending the majority of your time up here.  Has a hell of a view, doesn’t it?  That star up there to the left started going supernova about two months ago.  Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?  It’s all purple and exploding…

 

“Crow’s nest?  Oh, right!  That’s what I’ve taken to calling the observation deck.  Like on ships way back when humans still lived on Earth?  Ships that sailed on the oceans had a little kind of bucket at the top of the sails that a poor slob would sit in and keep watch for things.  But we’re in space now, so it’s a little different, don’t you think?

 

“Come.  Take a seat.  I’m sure you have lots of questions.  But, before we go any further, I’ll just go ahead and answer the question you have on your mind.  Yes, fourteen-hour rotations on an observation deck are boring as all hell, but the pay is good.  Technically, my job is to keep watch for wayward asteroids and make sure none of the old mining barges make any unscheduled collisions.  But, honestly, these old war relics could smash headlong into one another and the drivers (if they had drivers) would only float away with a case of whiplash.  They are nearly indestr…hnnnng!

 

“Pardon my outburst.  The Squid just made a pass at my prostate.  Little bugger must be hungry.

 

“What was I saying?  Oh, right.  The old frigates were appropriated by our employer and retrofitted with long-haul mining equipment and A.I. operators.  This far into the heart of the galaxy there are precious ores aplenty–a lot of the really heavy stuff.  Unfortunately, the binary supermassive black holes draw in crap from light years away.  It’s kind of like digging for gold underneath a waterfall.  A waterfall filled with chunks of iron and ice the size of an elephant.  But like I said earlier, the pay is good.  And the view is g…great!  Woah!  Wow.  Little guy is persistent.   

 

“I guess I can’t keep him waiting any longer.   I’ll just flop the little guy out and give him a few good strokes.  There we go.

 

“So, you were saying you had a few questions about daily life up here?   I’d be happy to answer whatever…  Why are you staring at me like that?  Is it something I said?

 

“Oh…  Oh! The Squid, right.  Don’t worry about that.  I promise we won’t make a mess or anything.  Sanitation is one of our top priorities up here!  It says so on a lot of the posters we have to keep up.

 

“But, you still look confused.  Did they not tell you about the Squids when you were hired?  Oh, lady, you are in for a treat!  Genetically engineered symbiotes.  Little guy lives over my bum and crotch.  He feeds on excrement and other bodily fluids.   Makes it so I never have to worry about leaving post to use the bathroom, and the regular orgasms keep a steady stream of dopamine pumping through my brain.  Little guy regulates other bodily functions as well.  It’s a win-win situation.  

 

“Corporate gives them out to us long-shifters when we are isolated from regular human contact out here.  They aren’t much for conversation, but how many people really are?  They do develop a taste for ejaculate, though.  That’s why I’m helping the little guy get his fix.  

 

“Um… Could you stop staring at him like that?  You’ll make him uncomfortable, and he might get a sour stomach.  You wouldn’t stare at a lady breastfeeding her baby, would you?  

 

“Terrifying?  He’s just hungry.  Really hungry today it seems… Woah!  That’s a tentacle down my urethra!  Haha!  Erm… So I guess it is kinda weird, huh?  

 

“I’ll admit it took some of getting used to.  I was put off by the idea at first, but the doc was insistent that I would grow to like the little guy.  The first few hours of it wiggling around inside me were… alarming to say the least.  And the first time it latched onto the head of my penis and proceeded to pound my prostate from the other side I nearly fainted.  The first week was a real trip, let me tell ya.

 

“After that, the months droned on.  I really wasn’t prepared for the kind of loneliness that hits you out here.  You get delivered broadcasts and recordings with news and other junk on it from elsewhere in the galaxy, but even with the FTL transports coming and going, the news is always a few weeks old.  And you just…you just really start to miss seeing other people, you know?  

 

“The Squid helps.  And so do the chems it helps your body release.  It might be lonely out here, but there is really nothing like staring at the crucible of the galaxy while your invertebrate life partner unrelentingly pumps at your insides drawing out orgasm after orgasm.  Want to head down to Medical and get yours?

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Unnamed

I stared at the empty water glasses in front of my computer screen while I waited for my brother to respond.

 

“You turned off your antivirus?” he asked from the other side of the phone-repeating what I told him.

 

“The download scan throttles my bandwidth,” I said.  “If I leave it on, downloads take forever.”

 

“You just went waltzing around the web without any kind of protection. Have I got that right?” He said angrily.

 

“It was only once,” I said sheepishly.

 

“And how many times does it take to get knocked up?”

 

“Once,” I was trying not to cry.

 

“This is on your shoulders, Matt,” he said after a pause.  “Just… I don’t know.  How long did it take you to find it?”

 

“About three hours.  I think.” I lied again.

 

“Three hours?!  Jesus, Matt.  Some of those AI clusters only need like two hours to attain… Did you at least cut the power to your computer?”

 

“Yes,” I lied.  My lower lip was trembling.

 

“Good.  But hell, man.  You’re going to have to take that computer of yours into a shop tomorrow and get rid of it.”

 

“I can’t kill it!” I shouted while giving the phone a look of disbelief.

 

“Don’t use words like ‘kill’,” he said.  “That just makes it sound like you’re doing something wrong and we don’t even know if it’s attained consciousness yet.”

 

“Should I tell mom?”

 

“No you shouldn’t tell mom!” he shouted.  “She would freak out and tell you that you have to keep it.  You don’t make anywhere near enough money to supply the hardware a brand new AI host machine would require.  No.  You have to get rid of it tomorrow.”

 

“But…”

 

“No arguing,” he said.  “Look, I’ll message you the place of a guy I know that does this kind of thing off the books.  It’ll be like it never happened.”

 

“You know a guy?” I began, but he cut me off again.

 

“End of discussion,” he said. Then the line went silent.

 

I didn’t do anything for a few minutes.  I didn’t even take the phone away from my ear.  I just sat there and watched my computer screen.  An activity monitor was showing me that an unnamed application was rapidly demanding more and more of my computer’s RAM.

 

I lied when I told my brother that I had found the AI and shut my computer off about three hours after it was implanted.  In truth, my computer had been running all night, and as far as I could tell, the AI had been growing the entire time.  It was already trying to communicate with me through emojis in my email.  In a few more hours it would require more RAM than my computer had to give.  It would starve and die.  I would be responsible for its death.  All because of a onetime fling without protection.

 

Courage

Courage was just a boy.  But that was to his advantage.  A boy still believes.  He believes in a difference between good and bad.  He believes in honor and chasing after adventure.  He believes in nightmares and dreams, danger and exploration.  But most importantly – a boy still believes in becoming a man.  Courage was just a boy.

He lived with his father, his sister, and his aunt.  Courage had never known his mother, but his aunt loved and cared for him like he was her own.  Courage spent his seasons like most other boys his age.  He went to school with his sister in the cold and rainy months. He played outside during the warmer days and nights.  His father was away from home often.  Courage had been told that his father fought for the United States Army in faraway countries.  Courage had never heard of most of these places, but he thought his father was very brave for traveling so far away from home.

Some days in the summer, Courage and his sister would combat against unnamed enemies as they pretended to be like their father.  They would fight with fervor and grit.  They would die with honor and passion.  They would do battle across the countless battlefields over and over again, until the end of time… Or at least until their aunt would call them in for dinner.  It was on one of these blood and mud soaked evenings that Courage’s father came home unexpectedly.

It was long into the night when his father arrived.  Courage had been dreaming that he was a bear sleeping through a long winter when the sound of rushing wind and breaking glass woke him.  The sounds of a commotion and hushed voices were coming from the bedroom down the hall.  Courage could hear a man saying something, and then he could hear the voice of his father calling for his aunt.  As he saw his aunt run by his bedroom door, courage began to worry.  Why had his father come home without telling anyone?  What was going on down the hall?  And why did his aunt have such a frightened look on her face?  Courage left his bed and snuck down the hall to where the door to the other bedroom had been left ajar.  He listened.

Courage’s aunt was asking his father why he was home early.  She was asking him about things that Courage didn’t understand.  Something about tunnels and shrinking worms.  Then he heard his aunt gasp.  Her voice trembled as she spoke, “Why is that here, Leo?!”

Courage’s father answered.  “There aren’t many safe places left for it any more.  We were overwhelmed at the bastion orbiting Thuban.  When we knew the bastion was lost, those of us that were left scattered through what must have been more than a thousand different Gate combinations, and left a very large mass singulizer behind us.  In about three hundred years I doubt you’ll be able to see Thuban from here any more.”

Now, Courage’s aunt sounded angry.  “But why is it here?!”

“Because I hope no one will look for it here. Earth is still essentially uninhabited, and you’ve still got one of the old suppressors buried under the house, don’t you?”

“I’m not even certain that old tech still works.  Do you have any idea what kind of danger you have put everyone on this planet in?  I swear you never think before you act.  This is why your wife can’t be seen with you any more.  One of the last legitimate daughters of the Old Lineage couldn’t keep hanging around the flying disaster that is your life.”

“Sister.  Dear sister.  Please stop bringing up my troubled love life and take this damned thing down to the basement.  I really think it would be a good idea to get it under a suppression field before someone takes notice.”

“You are unbelievable!”  Courage’s aunt grabbed what looked like a small box from his father and stormed out of the room.  She didn’t even notice Courage standing just outside the door.

When she had gone, courage looked back for his father in the bedroom.  He saw what looked like a window made of water open up in front of his father.  Leo had begun to step into the water window when Courage finally spoke.  “Where are you going again, dad?”

Courage’s father had just enough time to spin his head around with a look of bewilderment and concern on his face before being drawn completely into the water.  Courage looked, but couldn’t find where his father should have passed through to the other side.  He started to wonder where the water window took his dad.  Then he saw that the water window was getting smaller.  Courage made up his mind.  He held his breath and lept into the water.

Courage was just a boy when he decided to chase after his father into parts unknown.  

Frank and Pisley

“Hey Frank, check it out man.  It’s about to happen.”

“My money says they are all going to collapse into one another annihilating everything once and for all.  What say you, Pisley?”

“Not sure.  Maybe this will be like a new starting place and they will all start reverting back towards the other end of time.”

“Uhg.  I hope not.  Watching it all over again would be so boring…”

Frank and Pisley are two pan-dimensional beings who are about to watch something quite extraordinary.  Of the infinite number of parallel dimsions mirroring our own, nothing like this has happened since back at the beginning, when everything was getting started and variation first birthed the infinite infinity of possibility.  You see, the moment in time just before the big bang that got this stretch of time started, everything was singular.  Everything was kind of at a manageable nexus.  You could get a grasp on what was happening because… well because nothing was happening yet.  But man, right after that explosion…  Shit got wild.  For some reason the universe decided it was going to keep track of all possibilities and probabilities by playing them all out side by side in alternating dimensions.  It got uncomfortably complicated very quickly.  It did make for an interesting show for two pan-dimensional beings like Frank and Pisley, though.

Anyways, what Frank and Pisley are about to watch is so completely improbable that it actually had to happen.  With an infinite number of different dimensions, eventually every conceivable thing is going to happen.  The same thing happening in all of them at the same time is still just painfully unlikely.  Those who can know these kinds of things knew something like this was bound to happen eventually.  This just happens to be the first time something like this will happen.  And it didn’t even take long to get to this point – relatively speaking.

In every single dimension there is an individual named Red Jetson who is about to die.  Every single dimension is going to be tied together through this single moment.  Nothing even close to this has happened since the beginning.  Red dying is probably the biggest thing to happen in all of existence since it all got started, and will probably remain the the biggest thing until the end.  That is, if it isn’t the end.  Because honestly no one knows how this is going to turn out.  Especially not Frank and Pisley.

“It’s kind of morbid, don’t you think?” asked Frank.

“What?  Why?  People die all the time.”

“Yea, but not like this.  The universe wants this guy dead so bad it’s willing to collapse all possibilities down into one scenario just to make sure it happens.”

“Frank, you are seriously over-thinking this.  Just watch and see what happens.”

“Back when we first spotted the trends that were leading up to this happening, did you take the time to get to know any of the Reds?”

“Some of them,” replied Pisley. “But mono-dimensionals kinda bore me.”

“How caring of you.”

 

And then Red Jetson died.

 

The universe paused for just a time as if it were taking a moment to digest what just happened.  Maybe a moment of silence for Red.  Just enough time for a name to get written down somewhere.  Shortly after, the infinite spiral of unchecked possibility got back underway.

“Did… Did the universe just pause to reflect upon itself?” asked a worried Pisley.

“It might of…”

“I thought that was our job.  To reflect on the goings-on out there.”

“Apparently not?” replied Frank.

“I think I’m afraid,” whimpered Pisley.

“Who was Red Jetson?”

 

 

 

Tale of the Morning Lights

Time before today, there was a lonesome man who lived his life far away from the water’s edge.  This man had in his heart a between, and it caused his thoughts and his dreams to wander and roam.  His life was an aimless direction.  He knew not why he went forward nor to where.  But this was all to change soon.

The man moved out to where the land and the ocean met.  He took up residence in a small house at the water’s edge.  The ocean breeze and the salty air mixed with his breath and made him glad.  The man soon learned that every night there raged storms out over the water.  The wind would race around and around as it howled while the waters thrashed against each other.  The fury of each night’s storms was matched only by the spectacle on the water at dawn.  Each morning, the storms would quiet and silence would descend upon the water.  The inky black waters began to shine with a golden light and the sun would tear itself up from the deep.  The man had found the birthplace of every day’s sun.

Few mortals are able to imagine the beautiful vision of the sun rising from the water.  Fewer still are able to describe it.  The man stayed with the raging storms each night.  He danced with the waters, he howled with the wind, and he lost himself in the raging of the tempest.  As the storms calmed, so did his spirit beckon the coming of the sun.  As the golden flame ascended into the sky it carried with it the man’s breath and spirit.  As time passed, each morning began to fill the between in the man’s heart.  Soon his heart was overflowing with the radiant beauty of a thousand mornings.   He yearned to share his mornings.

It was not long after this that a woman took up residence in a house close to the man’s.  The man was anxious to share the storms and the sunrises with this woman, but he held his excitement in his heart.  The man believed that the woman would discover the morning light on her own.  The woman stayed with the storm on her very first night.  The man watched and as the storms began to quiet he saw that the woman had a look of expectation on her face.  The black waters began to glow, and the morning rhapsody stole the man’s attention.  With his breath stolen, and his spirit elated, he did not notice that the woman had moved close to him and that the two of them stood together, in pair, before the rising sun.

Together through the nights of storms and dawns of the sun, the man and the woman became close.  Their breath and spirits intertwined by the uplifting of the sun, they came to exist as one.  Each lived for the other, and it was as if the sun rose in its glory as a salutation to the love between them.

It was their idea that the two of them should go out to meet the sun as it rose in the morning.  Anticipation gripped them as they waited for the night.

On this night, the storms were particularly violent, and as they began to swim out into the water, the man felt hesitation in his heart for just a moment.  They both kept swimming until the water began to calm.  Silence settled upon the water, and all around them the inky black water began to glow golden.  The water beneath them began to swell and surg.  They were lifted up as the sun beneath them began to rise.  Lightness and radiance filled them both, and as the sun erupted from the deep, the man and the woman felt themselves caught up in the ascension.

There was an indescribable softness in the man’s heart, and his breath was leaving his body to join with the sky and the sun.  He felt hesitation in his heart once more.  He gasped and his breath returned to him.  The lightness and radiance left him.  He began to plunge out of the sky; away from the sun, away from the woman.  The man stretched out his hand towards the woman, but already he was too far away.  He fell and lost sight of the woman in the sky and sunlight.  A great tear ripped through the man’s heart.  He knew that he had been forever removed from his beloved.  He crashed into the water but was already drowning in sorrow.

He washed up on shore and stared up as the sun made its trip across the sky – away from the water, away from the man.  The man could not look away as the brilliant sun carried away his beloved.  And so the sun robbed him of his sight too.  The man lived out the rest of his nights at the water’s edge.  Each night he was kept awake by the howling tempest waters, but never again enjoyed the sight of the rising sun.  He was alone in the darkness and the cold – deprived of the sun’s radiance and robbed of half his heart.

The Prison Keeper Part 1

It had been three weeks since Otto had seen daylight.  He remembered seeing his cage when he had been brought to it by his captors.  the torches they brought illuminated little more than the cage itself and the chains it hung from.  The cage seemed to be suspended from some unseen ceiling in the dark.  And all around the cage a single round wall that looked to him like the inside of an enormous well.  The floor of the cage was no bigger around than necessary to stand on, and the bars looked to be so close together that slouching to try and rest would be impossible.  Otto’s impressions were sorely accurate.  Three weeks he had been standing.  His only time piece was what he assumed were daily visits from an old man who called himself the Prison Keeper.

The Prison Keeper brought Otto water and scraps of food, and for the first few days was silent when Otto demanded to know where he was or who was holding him.  Eventually the Prison Keeper introduced himself and began to inform Otto, little by little, about his situation.  The Keeper told Otto that the housing for his cage was indeed an over-sized relief well, but one that had not seen water for centuries.  The well itself was a central column, and branching off from it were numerous waterways that had once led to reservoirs or farmlands.  When the rains stopped coming, the well and its system of waterways had been retrofitted into a gigantic prison.  The Lord of this land thought it more economical than building a new prison.  Details as to which Lord, and what land, were kept from Otto.  This was done, explained the Keeper, to find out if the connection Otto shared with his Sword enabled him to convey information to her.

“No, Keeper, it does not work like that,” explained an exhausted Otto.  “The bond between us is one of pain and healing.  I get hurt when she would, and then I heal the wounds before they overtake me.  There is little other communication between Sword and Shield that is necessary.”

“Fascinating.  Tell me, does the distance between Sword and Shield have any effect on your bond?”

“If there were light in here, you could witness the effects… hmph… of our bond first hand.  It seems as though Sera is fighting as we speak.”  Otto’s words were strained and paused as he spoke.

There was a crackle and a rush of air.  For the first time in weeks, light flooded into Otto’s eyes.  He would have noticed the pain of his eyes adjusting, but his concentration was on the battle Sera was fighting elsewhere.  Her opponent employed the use of many small daggers – each one coated in poison.  Dispelling the poison from his system before it effected his mind and ability to meditate on his healing was a simple enough matter.  It did make conversation a bit difficult, though.

As Otto decided speaking was too much of a misappropriation of his energies, the Prison Keeper began to inspect Otto’s body.  Like so many others, the Keeper had never seen such a thing before.  Wounds would appear as if phantom blades were assaulting this man’s body.  The wound would open and blood would spill out only for a moment.  After the blood stopped, out oozed a strange purple liquid, and then almost immediately the wound would close.  The skin would fuse together leaving not but a little blood and the strange purple liquid.

“Tell me,” said the Keeper, “Is this purple liquid the secret to your healing abilities? It certainly smells… odd.”  The Keeper had taken a smear of the purple liquid onto his finger and was about to taste it when Otto advised him against it.

“I wouldn’t, old man.  That is a rather nasty paralyzing poison and what little of my blood it managed to fuse with.  My Sword fights with someone who enjoys poisoning their opponents.”

The Keeper quickly put distance between the purple liquid on his finger and his face.  “Fascinating.  You mean you can draw the poison from her body though space?”

“No.  Any physical assault on Sera’s body – be it from blade or chemical – simply is an assault on my body.  Distance is not a consideration.”  As Otto was speaking, the wounds stopped appearing on his body.  He assumed that the fight was over.

“Simply fascinating,” repeated the Keeper as he extinguished his torch and left his prisoner behind.

The well was dark once again.  Otto frowned to himself.  The Prison Keeper’s face bore no distinguishing features or telling markers that might help Otto figure out who he was, or which Lord he served.   Not knowing his enemy always bothered him.  But more pressing on his mind was Sera.  She could take care of herself, but Otto did not know how long his “Keeper” would let him live.  Once he was dead, Otto knew Sera’s life would be in peril.  As he began to worry about their safety, hope reached out to him in the dark. New wounds started appearing on Otto’s body.  It was true that Otto had no way of reaching out to Sera from so far away, but there were tricks that allowed Sera to “speak” to him.  Across his forearms, Otto could feel shallow wounds being scribbled down like words.  “Prison.  Well.  I’m Coming.”

Tales from the Republic – My Dog Skip

First things first.  This dog’s name is not “skip.”  It has a name, but it never responds to its given name.  That isn’t really a problem, though because no one can remember its real name, and it comes when you call it just about anything.  For a while we tried to figure out his real name by calling it every name we could think of just in case it didn’t respond to one of them.  No luck.  Some of the kids that run errands around the docks started calling him Skip because when the dog runs around its back end bobs up and down because it doesn’t seem to be able to use one of his hind legs.  So the dog kind of skips.  I guess.

Enough about what Skip’s real name is or isn’t.  This is the story about how he got that little hop, and it is the story about how he came to be my dog.

I used to keep track of numbers for one of the small time loan sharks set up down by the old docks here in the Republic. I say “used to keep numbers” because these days my memory isn’t so great, so I just hurt guys when I’m told to.  I’ll probably get to why my memory is shitty later on.  If I remember.

So anyways, I used to spend most of my day down at an office with Mr. Blue.  Mr. Blue has a legitimate name too, but no one uses it because the last sack that did got his teeth rearranged.  At the office with Mr. Blue I would keep track of things like names, numbers and dates.  Who owed how much, and when it was time for them to pay.  Mr. Blue would wait until I had all the necessary complications figured up and through the miracle of math, found someone for him to go and hurt.  It was a fine little system, and we were good at what we did.  Mr. Blue liked hurting people, and I didn’t mind staying away from all of those unpleasant confrontations.

One day, I had just sent Mr. Blue out on an errand when this little rat of a dog comes strolling in the door.  He sits down, kinda looks at me and barks.  Just one bark, and then he just sort of kept looking at me.  I couldn’t tell if he wanted something or was just being obnoxious, but he looked pretty skinny, so I decided to thrown him a piece of ham from the sandwich I was eating.  He ate it pretty quick, looked happy, then decided to take a nap over in the corner where we kept the coat rack.

A few hours later Mr. Blue got back looking a bit scuffed up but very pleased with himself.  He told me that the old cake lady down on 7th street wouldn’t have any problems making all her future payments.  He also informed me that the old bat can swing a mean rolling pin.  The dog was still asleep under the coat rack, when Mr. Blue noticed him.  He said to me that there was a dog sleeping underneath the coat rack.  I said yea there is.  Mr. Blue asked me if it was my dog, but while my brain was trying to process that possibility (and my face was making a very odd little “uhhh” gesture) the dog woke back up and barked once like he was greeting Mr. Blue.  Without thinking about it I threw the dog another piece of ham.  Just like last time, he ate it and went back to sleep.  Mr. Blue and I just kinda looked at each other for a second after that, and I told him it was apparently my dog now.  Mr. Blue told me that he had a dog once – when he was a kid.  He said he missed that dog somethin awful after he accidentally ran it over with his dad’s car.  Mr. Blue got kinda quiet after that, and spent the rest of the day out behind our office doing something he thought would be loud enough so that I couldn’t hear him whimpering about the dog he felt so bad about killing.  Mr. Blue was a funny guy.

After a few days the dog had settled right in at the office.  He was a fairly idle dog.  He would bark once when he was hungry, and once when he needed to be let outside.  Most of the time he just kinda relaxed underneath the coat rack.  Mr. Blue and I decided on a name for him, but like I said earlier, I can’t remember what it was.  Can’t ask Mr. Blue what it is either, because some time later he found a brand new pair of cement shoes and a new address at the bottom of the wharf.  It happens in this city.  But before Mr. Blue’s untimely end, there was another little mix up at the office.

See, every once in a while, someone would get real angry that they have debts to pay, and would try and start some trouble for us at the office.  This particular jack-off was angry enough to bring a gun along with him.  The jack-off slams open the door to the office, simultaneously scarring the crap out of me, and knocking poor Mr. Blue (who was just about to leave so was standing in front of the door) out cold.  The dog, while he took notice of what was happening, seemed unperturbed by the sudden commotion.  The jack-off starts waving the gun around in my general direction, and once again my brain just kind of stutters while my face attempted to look confused and afraid at the same time.  I knew that Mr. Blue wasn’t going to be any help, so the only other thing I could think to do was call out to the dog.  I didn’t know what good it would do me, but it had to be better than nothin, right?

I was right, actually.  To an extent.  See, I called out the dog’s name, and after months of just kinda sitting around doing nothing, the dog leaps up in between me and the jack-off’s gun and manages to take a bullet for me.  Don’t get too worried about the dog though.  It was still a skinny little bastard and the bullet went right through one of his back legs and right into part of my head.  The dog lived, and I managed to not die somehow.  The bullet is still in there somewhere though, and it’s probably the reason I can’t remember things very well any more.  And so the dog known as skip got his odd little hop from that bullet wound too.  You know, come to think of it, that’s probably why he doesn’t come when you call his real name any more.  The last time he responded to it, he got shot.  Smart little bastard.