The collarless stray sat roadside, watching traffic, tongue loose, big teeth smiling into the darkness. One of the big robot trucks went by, filled with animal smells. The stray watched it pass into the darkness, trailing lights behind it as it went. The moon rode clouds West and the stray could see the motion.
Somewhere not too far away, an insect landed on a piece of tin, chiming it. An ear lifted, rotated and returns to idle.
There was another machine on the road. Looked normal, but lacked headlights, and sounded wrong. The engines were running normally, but the tuning was missing the usually harmonic hum. Didn’t anticipate the hill until the speed dropped, and then overcompensated by revving suddenly. Animals acted like that, but vehicles didn’t. Machines didn’t. This vehicle had an animal driving it.
The stray stood and looked down the valley at the car as it rounded another corner, and then started loping towards the freeway. The sprint across the last 75 yards took three strides. The impact was quiet, but the rooster-tail of sparks from the dragging rear end of the vehicle screamed into the hills and harmonized with the echo.
As per the rules, the stray pulled the animal from the sandy hillside the car had burrowed into. Checked vitals, and attempted to identify which medical carrier it was affiliated with. No tracker on ‘fid. Cauterized the cheekbone cut with the small onboard first aid torch, applied transdermal sleep agent, and then deployed a foil blanket with a red cross symbol at each corner.
After a moment, the moon skated past the clouds once again, and all six hundred pounds of the stray began to purr.