A/N - Two words. Microchipped. Dogs.

I can't believe I wrote this... I'm going to go hide under a rock now. I blame the evil plot bunnies!

x-xxx-x

Sniff… sniff sniff… People! Oo… Pee!

Life was simple in the beginning. He had a house, and a family who threw balls for him to chase. Sometimes there were leftovers, and sometimes he went to the kennel. Sometimes the neighbor cat came over and tried to eat his food, and he got to chase it and bark.

But then everything changed.

Loud noises the person hadn't let him go see – then a wash of… Something. He didn't have a word for It then.

It started small, a tingling in his shoulders. Then his leg felt stiff – everything moved right, it just felt… off. It crept up his neck, and down his back, and suddenly, he was Different.

He had lots of words now. And a new name.

He was Stickchaser.

Stickchaser didn't have a person now. The one who he'd been walking had run away in the confusion. He still had a family, of course, but he couldn't go home yet.

But he hadn't been the only dog on the street that day, and some of the others were bad dogs.

"Hungry," said one of the others, another good dog like him.

"You're always hungry, Rambler!" snapped Sashay, shaking long silky ears.

"'M a big dog! I need to eat!" The Rottweiler loomed over the others. Stickchaser had gathered them together in the days after It happened, the good dogs that were Different, like him. They were the ones trying to protect the humans, like they'd been taught.

"I'm hungry, too!" yowled Swish from his perch on Rambler's back.

"You're a cat. Eat a mouse," Sashay huffed.

"I'm a dog!"

"Are not!"

"Prove it!"

"Let's go hit up Joe's," suggested Stickchaser, stepping in. "I think it's the fat one's night to cook."

"Oh, he has the best garbage!" Rambler bounced, almost loosing the cat in the process.

"Ew, gross! Do you have to say 'garbage?'"

"I could call it steak, but it'd still be garbage."

Sashay gave him an exasperated look. "Table scraps."

"Garrrrrbage." The bickering continued all the way to the back alley behind Joe's place.

Stickchaser took advantage of his fluffy ears and his breed's lovable reputation, sticking his head through the partially open door and whining.

"Hey, Mike! You're dog's here!"

"Which one?"

"The Goldie! Aw, you're a cute one, ain'tcha?" The young kitchen worker gave Stickchaser a pat on the head. A few minutes later, and he delivered the bowl of scraps the cook had been collecting all night just in case one of his furry friends showed up for dinner.

"Alright, who ordered the chicken skin with a side of burnt sauce?" he asked jokingly.

"Oh, that was me!" Rambler bounced. The four of them always thought it was kind of strange how the humans couldn't understand them when they could understand the humans just fine. Swish claimed that it was all radios in their heads, something the others thought was ridiculous, and dismissed it as feline fancy. Everyone knew that radios were those things that played what humans called music and dogs called wailing, so of course they'd know if there were radios in their heads.

Stickchaser gave the human a lick and a grin, all four of them settling in for a meal. Swish sat between Rambler's paws, daintily pulling chunks of chicken out of the bowl as the big dog wolfed the food down.

A minute later, and Rambler was licking the empty bowl. "I'm still hungry."

Sashay sighed.

"Come on, we need to get going. We're late for patrol, anyway." Stickchaser nudged the bigger dog away from the bowl. "We still don't know what Steelsnap and the others are up too… they've been too quiet lately."

"I'm coming, I'm coming…" Rambler followed the Saluki and the Retriever out of the alley with a sigh, Swish trotting under his belly.

"Ugh, I want a bath. And a brushing," Sashay muttered, flicking mud off a paw. "See, this is why dogs have people."

"How're you plannin' to explain all the metal under your fur?" Rambler asked in amusement.

"I'm here, aren't I?" she shot back. "I don't think my Family is ready for that, yet. But when we're done, and the Bad Dogs are gone, I'm going to go home and explain everything. And get brushed everyday, and my claws trimmed, and premium food in my bowl…" she continued dreamily.

"I don't like baths."

"Well, you're a barbarian."

Stickchaser's ears perked. "Shhh… I hear something." Two more sets of ears lifted. Swish jumped back up on Rambler, tufted ears and antenna swiveling.

"I hear snarling… do you think it's them?" Swish whispered, tail flicking in agitation.

"One way to find out." Stickchaser loped towards the sounds, the others right behind. They skidded around a corner to find exactly what they were afraid of.

The Doberman, Bloodslick, and her partner-in-crime, a German Shepard called Striker, had cornered a young human woman who was pressed up against the alley wall, clutching her purse.

"B-bad d-dogs, go home…"

"Yeah, bad dog, that's right. We're baaaaaad dogs. Gonna eaaaaaatcha." Striker let out a sadistic sort of snicker, inching closer.

Stickchaser had seen enough. "Back OFF!" He barked for the human's benefit.

"Or what, fuzzy?" Striker laughed.

"Or we're going to take steps," Rambler growled, "Big ones that involve biting your nose off, and shoving it somewhere uncomfortable." Swish yowled for good measure.

"It's not worth it, Striker. We'll have another chance," Bloodslick told her partner. She glared hatefully at the other dogs. "Someday, Steelsnap's going to get tired of you sticking up for these… things… that try to call themselves our masters." She stepped forward, looking down at the retriever. "And then I'm going to enjoy ripping you apart. Come on, Striker." She turned and trotted away, Striker giving one last growl before following.