James Tiptree Mongrel- known to friends and acquaintances alike as “Tip”- was in a bind, and he was fully aware of it.
It was August 2020, and Tip knew his luck was running out. As he stood there in the river, in what he knew was a drastic attempt to ditch the posse pursuing him, he meditated on how he had gotten into this fix…
Tip had the misfortune, at least the way he saw it, of being completely alone in the world, and having to fend for himself in order to survive. The burden was made easier, in the physical sense, by the fact that he was a genetic oddity- a mutant, if you will- with strange powers and abilities not known to the more “normal” residents of the Planet Earth of this time. He was canine, like them, however. They all had been since the “blast” in 2010, which obliterated the physical form of the human race but allowed their emotions, ethics and culture to remain in the forms of their natural successors- the canine race. And, unfortunately for him, this included the natural proclivity in the human race to persecute those who did not match a proscribed form of social status, intelligence and political and religious uniformity- in other words, those who were “different” from everyone else.
And Tip was certainly different- he bled difference.
That was made clear to him almost from the time of his birth. For a boy dog, he was inordinately handsome, though this was somewhat offset by a large pink dot in the center of his head, similar to those sported by some practitioners of the Hindu faith in the old human time. Other differences soon presented themselves: examinations of his bloodstream showed increasingly large amounts of foreign, almost alien, antibodies, which his contemporaries took for an excuse to ridicule him for his “alien” appearance. He could easily have fought back, for he soon came to possess enormous physical strength and speed, but his naturally shy nature, an outgrowth of constantly being poked, prodded and examined by a wide variety of physicians and government officials, prevented him from retaliating.
But it was his most prominent power that got him into so much trouble. When he sensed the presence of evil, he suffered something resembling an epileptic seizure, and then his eyes and birthmark turned a scarlet shade of red. A mystical, supernatural force seemed to possess him, and he would use all the abilities at his command to remove the cancerous malignity from its core.
This was, unfortunately, something that he could not control. What was even worse was that his personal view of evil was not something that matched up to the views of the wider society in which he lived. He therefore, from a young age, had acquired a large number of enemies who did not believe in supporting his idealistic search for the truth. They, rather, wished to see his snow-white mongrel pelt, with his idiosyncratic mop of unruly hair on top, nailed up to the side of their walls as a hunting trophy. And all he wanted was a friend.
He’d acquired his reputation as a meddling, idealistic do-gooder before he had even reached maturity. He recalled that his “light” had first come on when he was two years old, at the orphanage where his uncaring parents had deposited their “freak” of a child at his birth, in the presence of his headmaster. He had heard stories of the cruelty of this official, but now it all seemed fully confirmed. Without warning, he attacked the headmaster in full daylight and beat him severely. He was expelled, of course, with all the shame that involved.
Then it got worse. It was easy for him to get work, given his physical prowess, but his sense for evil made it hard to keep it. The last straw, in the eyes of the authorities at last, came while he was working for a construction firm. While in the presence of the firm’s unctuous president, the feeling of evil came over him. He tracked down the businessman, overpowered him and threw him to his death. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he maintained his innocence as they locked him away.
“It’s this feeling I have.” he maintained at the trial. “I have to destroy evil wherever I find it.”
“You’ll have to learn to control it if you want to be a responsible citizen!” said the judge.
“I thought I was.” he repeated. “I thought I was…”
The feeling soon came over him again. He had tried to be responsible in prison, spending months in the prison library reading books and researching his condition. In literature, he found that there were many heroes of yore whom he resembled. They fought evil and were rewarded for it. But in the real world, he found, such people were persecuted. The people who tried to be heroic in real life- the whistle blowers and do-gooders- found themselves at remarkably bad ends. If they were not punished by the legal system for illegal but justifiable acts, vigilante justice, especially for mutants like him, led to corpses strung from the trees on the branches, a warning to the curious. How could he reconcile this gap in his mind?
Eventually, it occurred. The court-ordered medication was suppressing a lot of urges to deal with little evils, but the big evil could not be contained. And when the call came, he had to answer.
This hot August night, Tip recalled, was when he broke. Clad in his uniform of white T-shirt and shorts, he had bent the bars of his cell as if they had been made of butter. The guards had shot at him and grazed his arm, but had mostly missed him. He had been forced to take refuge in the swamps, and there he was, with his feet knee deep in the water.
They were closing in on him. D.O.P.E.- the Dogs Overseeing Protection against all Evil- who should have welcomed and helped him, had marshaled all their forces for his destruction. So had the military, and the local police. They soon closed in upon him. He dived into the water, narrowly missing their bullets…
To his eyes, he had been swimming for an eternity. The current was overpowering, but he knew it had to be fought. Eventually, just as he thought he would have to give up, he surfaced.
It was a surprisingly clean atmosphere, despite the fact that it was the main drag for the civic sewer system. At one time, it had served the same function for the city subway, and the plush fittings of that former function still remained: the handsome name plates announcing the stations, for example. But the sleek trains and their tracks had been replaced by a flowing stream of murky sewer water, which carried Tip along in its grasp as he fought for a place. As he regained his strength, he swam over to the side of the drain and lifted himself up onto the side railing. For the first time in hours, he was able to relax.
This only lasted a moment, before a searing pain buried itself in his foot. He shouted and screamed for help, as an alligator, a primordial survivor of the human age, slowly began to drag him to a watery grave. He knew, in his weakened condition, that he didn’t stand a chance against it; this was the end.
Or was it?
As he attempted to free himself from the clutches of the reptilian beast, Tip thought he saw a creature as big and powerful as himself dive head-first into the swampy sewer water to rescue him. It was no illusion; he had, but he had no idea who or what it was. All he could see in the darkness were its eyes, a powder-blue pair of trappers that held him entranced.
Even more surprising was what the creature did next. Swimming in front of the alligator, it grunted, barked and growled a challenge to it. The alligator lunged at it, and after a few minutes of battle on the surface and beneath, the loud snap of breaking alligator jaws was heard and the creature emerged triumphant. It then approached Tip.
“Come on!” it said, in a noticeably feminine voice. “We gotta get you to safety!”
Pulling his paw, it dragged him along a corridor to where it had made a modest but comfortable base of operations. There, the lights came on, and Tip could finally see who his rescuer was as it shook the water out of its fur.
It was now unquestionable in his eyes that the creature was a girl dog. What was also unquestionable, to both him and her, was that they were so alike in appearance that they seemed, almost, to be brother and sister. The girl was slightly taller than he, had a round mop of straight hair atop her ears, and was in possession of a strange sort of self-confidence that he lacked, but in every other respect- fur color, eye color, facial shape, and the strategic placement of a pink dot on the forehead- they were exactly equal.
She had placed him safely on her makeshift “couch” while she placed a pair of black low-rise jeans and a grey tank top over her wet underclothes, and was herself contemplating the similarities in their appearances when he finally broke the silence.
“Thank you.” he said.
“Hey, no big.” she replied. “I do that all the time. You know, it always seems to happen when I get this weird supernatural feeling that evil’s around somewhere.”
“No kidding!” he said. “I get that feeling, too. Every time I feel the need to act on it, though, I get into trouble. That’s how I ended up here.”
“Me, too!” she replied.
The similarities between them appeared to heighten even further, especially when she implied that she had to flee justice for killing somebody, and he responded in the affirmative that he had done the same. More to the point, it was after this exchange that they noticed the pink dot they shared on their scalps, and the sense of supernatural kinship between them suddenly took on a deeper cast.
“Holy cow!” was what formed in their lips as they realized the truth, but no sound emerged.
Her name, as it turned out, was Alice Sheldon Mutt, though typically she went by the colloquial “Al”. She, like Tip, had been in difficult circumstances as a child, but being a girl only served to increase many of her difficulties. In particular, she had been forced to become a fighter to defend herself against a series of lecherous males who had approached her with less than honorable intentions. Her evil sense seemed to work overtime under those conditions, she said. To avoid this, she had enlisted in the female army corps and had obtained a solid rank until her evil sense kicked in again. She tracked down- and killed- a higher ranking officer who was attempting to defraud her regiment. She had fled to the sewers since it was, at the time, the only place she could not be tracked to, and where evil was not nearly as present.
“That is, until you came along.” she observed.
“Sorry I shifted the equilibrium.” he returned.
“Don’t you worry about it!” she said. “I’m self-sufficient. I can look after myself.”
“So can I.” he replied. “The thing is- can we look after our evil sense?”
“Maybe not alone.” came the answer. “But together…”
“What are you saying?” he said. “That we should team up?”
“Might be worth a shot, Tip.” Alice replied. “I mean, individuals can only hold out for so long against the system, and evil could be anywhere we look…and besides, I kinda dig you.”
“Really?” he said. “I’m getting fond of you myself. And it sure would be a nice change to talk to somebody other than me for once!”
“So you like the idea, huh?” she said, cuddling up to him.
“More every minute.” he said.
They began to embrace. But the love making had barely begun before the dreaded evil sign came over both of them as they staggered around and their eyes turned red.
“Tip…” Alice whispered “…something’s going on. I can feel it!”
“Me, too” said Tip. “And I won’t be able to shake this feeling until we fix whoever’s doing it.”
“Right!” she replied.
And so they made their way out of Alice’s hideaway- only to be confronted by the massive force of soldiers and D.O.P.E. agents who had been tracking Tip. The odds seemed hopeless, but to the newly empowered mutant duo, that word did not exist in their vocabulary.
“Out of our way!” Tip snapped. “We have to track down an evil force!”
“You’re looking at it!” returned the commander of the combined force. “Both of you!”
“We were just doing what we thought was right!” Alice snarled. “Apparently, with your bureaucratic definition of right and wrong, you can’t see that for the trees!”
A soldier, without being commanded, shot at her. Alice lunged for his gun and bent it in half.
“You won’t EVER try to make me mad if you know what’s good for you!” she roared.
“Take it easy, Al.” cautioned Tip.
“Why? So they can break us apart?” Alice replied. “That’s just what they want, Tip. You and me, we have a good thing going. They just don’t understand us the way we understand each other. With our powers, we can waste evil, all evil, including them if we have to! Don’t you want that?”
“Yeah…” he returned “But….”
Before he could say more, another bullet whizzed past Alice’s head, barely missing the opportunity to splinter her skull like a walnut. Tip was instantly enraged. For once, he had somebody he could connect with, and here they were, trying to destroy her. How dare they!
He quickly spotted the soldier who had fired the shot and punched him in the face so hard that he fell over backwards, dead. The others jumped him at once, but they were no match for his enraged fury. Alice soon joined him, and the fight was on! Before the melee was over, much of the force lay dead in the sewers, punched or strangled to death by the enormous twin powers of the mutant dogs. Only a few stragglers, beaten but not dead, were able to make a full escape.
“Get out of here…” roared Tip “…and leave us alone!” That was exactly what they did.
Alice patted Tip on the back as they headed back to her, now their, retreat. He did the same to hers.
“We did it, big guy!” she was saying to him. “I never would have held off a force that size by myself- it would’ve been the end for me! I’m just surprised you managed to hold them off for so long- they looked too strong for me to handle! But not you, huh?”
“Al?” he said silently, cutting her off.
“Yeah?” she answered.
“We’ve got to do something about our whole evil sense thing.” he replied. “I mean, after what we just did, they’re really gonna be hunting for us. They’ll track us and kill us if they have to. It’s too dangerous for us to be here. We gotta get out!”
“Right you are.” she said. “Better we take it on the lam and wander around a bit, at least for a little while. But that don’t mean we can’t have fun. We can track down the evil as soon as we sense it and get rid of it quickly, what with our combined powers and all. We can help a lot of people, least of all ourselves, if we nip this evil sense stuff in the bud. It’ll be swell!”
“When we aren’t making like a couple of Jean Valjeans, then, yeah!” he answered “But how are we gonna get a full-time chance to fight evil when we have to keep hiding out like this?”
“Don’t worry about that.” she replied. “Evil is everywhere. But we have a gift, Tip, a gift. We saw it as a disadvantage ‘cause the law and society made it one. But we don’t have to live by their definitions of who we are anymore. It doesn’t matter what they think about us, Tip; what matters is that we use our gift to do good. If they don’t think what we do is good, tough; that’s their problem. They may hate us here, but we’ll just travel about and see if folks somewhere else will be more understanding. We always have the opportunity to start fresh, and we won’t be alone; we’ll have each other, always!”
“Wow! You make a good point.” he said with a sudden upturn in spirits. “I never thought of it like that. The evil sense doesn’t have to be a handicap; it can help us do good!”
“That’s what I said.” replied Alice. “Just you and me, pal!”
“Right, buddy!” he said.
“Now, I believe we have some unfinished business to attend to!” she replied with a sexy air “Care to help me finish it off?”
“But of course!” he replied, catching her meaning and emphasizing his own.
And so, the two no longer lonely loners slipped back into their hideaway in the sewers, intending to finish the love making the long arm of the law had so vicariously interrupted.
James Tiptree Mongrel- known to friends and acquaintances alike as “Tip”- was in a bind, and he was fully aware of it.
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