a tale in weekly parts
“I see you brought the canine,” Jarvis intoned in his most haughty manner.
“Chav is part of our family, Jarvis,” Kr’veth’neq’is rebuked, “he deserves an outing as much as the rest of us.”
“Ever thought of enhancing him?” Albert asked.
“Of course,” Xander replied, “I mean, look at that coat; isn’t that enhancement enough?”
“I didn’t mean physically,” Albert explained.
“Oh, you mean—”
“Exactly, young student. Just as your sister oversaw your enhancements, and those of your father; she could do the same for your pet.”
“But both Dad and I had bitek in our brains anyway. Chav doesn’t… does he?”
“Lad,” Albert started, “you remember what Jarvis was saying about evolutionary dead-ends and wrong turns in the human brain?”
“Those come from the way your species has evolved and developed, but mostly they’re caused my countless millennia; actually, I know exactly how many, but the number isn’t important and countless makes it more dramatic.”
“I can see that.”
“As I was saying; countless millennia of thinking, planning, strategising, cogitating, intellectualising… you see what I’m saying?”
“I think so; you’re suggesting that because dogs haven’t had the same level of intellectual evolution, they don’t have the dead-ends and wrong turns we do.”
“So; does that mean,” Xander started to ask.
“It means, dear brother, that it’s a clean slate to work on,” Kr’veth’neq’is said, “It means that the unused areas of brain that, in humans, can’t be reached in the absence of bitek substrates, are reachable in lesser animals.”
“But very few have the basic materials to make it worthwhile,” Jarvis added, “regardez!” He manifested, in front of them, a slowly rotating, three-dimensional representation of the brain and somatic nervous system of a small dog. “Notice the coloured areas,” he said, “those in green are, for all practical purposes, identical to those in primates, and particularly in hominids. The yellow areas are analogous and some may be treated as near-equivalent, while the red areas are different. The red areas include the olfactory system, as well as motor controls, driving such activities as tail-wagging and some head controls; ear movement and head tilting. Both of these are present in humans, though little used, but have different control centres.”
“So are you saying,” Xander asked, “that Kr’veth’neq’is will be able to enhance the green area?”
“And some of the yellow ones,” Jarvis replied, “although we will need to discuss which functions you want to enhance.”
“I’d plump for communication above everything else,” Xander said.
“In that case, we need to do some work on you, too.”
“Not just you; Kr’veth’neq’is too. The canine will send on a wavelength to which you aren’t sensitive, and it you want to send to him as well, you need to have that wavelength enabled full duplex. I can do that while you sleep, can’t I love?”
“Ooh,” Albert replied, “there’s no limit to what you can do while folk are asleep, sweetie.”
“Why don’t you two get a room,” Xander said, grinning.
“Get a room? Get a room?” Jarvis mocked, “I AM a room!”
Oh, how they all laughed.
“Okay,” Albert said, “off to sleep, you young’uns. Let’s get on with it while Jarvis navigates us to our destination.”
Kr’veth’neq’is looked at Xander and said, “Esterkha’a”. Xander found a bed and fell asleep. Kr’veth’neq’is did the same when Albert whispered something unintelligible into her ear.
The pair awoke to the excited cries of an unaccustomed voice.
“Oh, wow!” it said, “Wow, wow, wow, bow-wow, wow. I think I can talk!”
“Chav?” Xander asked, almost hesitantly.
“Xander,” Chav replied, excitedly, “say something to me, say something to me; go on, say something to me.”
“Who’s Xander’s best boy, then?”
“I am; I am; I am,” Chav replied, “I’m your best boy; wow!”
“You can understand me!” Xander said, “We can have a conversation.”
“A conversation. You can tell me about things and I can teach you all sorts of things.”
“Not gonna happen. Where’s my ball? Throw my ball for me. Go on, throw it, throw it.” All the while, Chav was jumping around excitedly. This was nothing new to Xander; Chav had always been the most exuberant dog he had ever known. What was different now, was that he knew why his dog was so animated; there would be no more need for guessing.
“I should explain,” Jarvis said, “that all we have enhanced so far are the canine’s communication pathways. His intellect is unchanged. You remember how this works, don’t you? Your dog doesn’t produce words. His mind emits scenarios, constructs, thoughts, call them what you will. Your brain picks up those signals and converts them to a form it can handle, using the language, voice, intonation and so on that you would expect to hear. Thus, you hear your animal speaking. When you respond, his brain converts your output into a form that he can process. You are hearing raw dog. He has not been enhanced intellectually. Not for the time being, anyway. Let’s give him time to be comfortable with being able to understand what you say and to be able to respond, shall we?”
Chav was oblivious to this conversation, as it all happened on a wavelength to which he wasn’t sensitive.
Turning to his dog, Xander decided to try something. “Chav,” he said, “ready for a walk?”
“A walk? A walk? Ready? Of course I am. Look; I’ve even got my new coat on. How cool do I look? Let’s go. Come on, don’t make me wait; let’s go. Now. Come on.”
Looking at him, Xander could see that Chav was barking excitedly while running around the area and jumping up to him. Now, though, he knew, for the first time, what was going through his dog’s mind.
“Are we nearly then yet?” he asked Albert.
“Just arrived,” Jarvis responded, and opened the door.
Chav was out like a flash, running around the lush green area, desperately seeing to the irrigation needs of as many trees as he could reach; running back to Xander, who was by now standing outside Jarvis, at the foot of his steps, and barking excitedly, “It’s great, it’s great, it’s great. Love it, love it, love it. Come on Xander, let’s play. Yay!”
Xander ran out, Chav’s ball in his hand, and threw it into a clearing.
“Good-oh,” Chav barked, and ran off after it. Having retrieved it, he returned to Xander and started dancing in front of him. “My ball; I got it, I got it; it’s mine. If you want it, you’ll have to chase me for it.”
Until today, all this had been nothing more to Xander than excited barking, running around and refusing to give the ball back on his dog’s part. He had long suspected that Chav wanted to be chased, that the battle for the ball was what it was all about. Now he knew.
While they were playing, Albert and Kr’veth’neq’is came out of Jarvis. Albert was carrying a small sack, the contents of which were wriggling and writhing.
“What’s in the sack?” he asked.
“Never mind,” Albert said, “Kr’veth’neq’is and I are just going to have a little fun—”
“Don’t you mean fulfill our destiny, Albert?”
“Destiny, schmestiny. We’re gonna have some fun. See you soon, lad.”
Xander knew where they were. He also knew when they were. Beyond that, he had a pretty good idea what was going to happen in the next day or so. Mix that together, stir in something wriggling and writhing inside that sack, and Xander had a pretty good idea what they were up to.