Stanley finished corralling the watering drones after much jostling—Condor-11 was acting up again, probably needed another call to the veterineer. But not today. It was supposed to storm tonight, so Stanley called the drones in early. He had time for a ride.

The storms were coming, no questions about it, but for the moment the sun was still the size of an onion in the sky and it was breathing its hot breath all over the fields. A little wind in his hair would feel nice. He left the drones to feed on their charging pellets and walked to the next barn over. Stanley stopped at the freshly painted yellow door and whistled loudly. Behind the door he heard Sidekick pawing at the dirt and whining with excitement. He swung the door outward and the giant dog burst out, knocking Stanley over and slathering him with affectionate licks.

Sidekick was what they called a K-1-8, or a Mega Shepherd—a genetically modified animal based off of Earth’s dogs. The back of his neck stood five feet off the ground and he weighed over 300 pounds. They were only popular here on Townshend, but Stanley couldn’t imagine why. They must just have poor taste in pets on the other worlds.

“Wanna go ridin’, Sidekick?” he asked, and the dog pranced around in circles. After a bit of cajoling, Stanley got him saddled and hopped on top.

In the bright sunlight he could see that Sidekick’s coat was truly midnight blue, not black. What was the point of having a gen-mod pet if you couldn’t have a little fun with the color?

They rode around the outskirts of the farm for a while when they both heard the unmistakable boom of an incoming freighter. Spaceships didn’t pass over the farm very often; they must have rerouted to avoid the weather. The ship promptly streaked across the sky, and Sidekick took off after it like it was a flying rabbit. Stanley held on for dear life, feeling the raw muscle power pump beneath him as strong as any machine.

“You can’t catch it you dummy!” But it was no use. Shit, at least he’d tire himself out and sleep through the storm tonight. For as big as he was, Sidekick sure was afraid of thunder.

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