Chapter Nineteen – Of Lions and Doctors in the Stars
“I think the important thing now,” Mannarius told the human, “is that you are off Sardonia, and with people who care about you.”
“But…” Citlally began, looking each of them over again. “I don’t even know you. I mean you,” she said, pointing at Mannarius, “look a little familiar, but not her.”
“My name is Iratze,” the nurse explained. “I’ve been looking after you for several days now.”
Citlally looked around the room, somewhat stupefied by the sight of it all. “Am I in some kind of hospital?”
“No,” the captain told her. “This is the infirmary of my ship, the Lionstar.”
“Lionstar?” Citlally repeated. “I was on board the Hoshi-Narada, on my way to the Regulus system. Why did I transfer to another ship?”
Mannarius gave the nurse a hopeless look, then told the human, “I’m afraid that I don’t know every detail of the events that brought you to Sardonia.” He hated not being completely honest, but if the girl was traumatized, he refused to be the one to trigger another fit of hysteria in her. “I was sent to find you and take to back to your husband.”
“Endan…” she whispered, looking down at the blankets. “Where is he? How did we get separated?”
“He is somewhere safe,” the captain told her. He might have added ‘unharmed,’ but it would only have been another lie. ‘Safe’ was as good as she was going to get. “The ship he’s on is going to rendezvous with us at the Skull Nebula.”
“The… The Skull?!” Citlally cried, hardly believing what she’d heard. “But that’s… it’s…” She searched around herself, then gave Mannarius an irritated look. “Where is my space travel guide?”
“You lost it,” Iratze told her when Mannarius could only stutter as he tried to find an answer.
“Fine,” Citlally grumbled. “But how far away is the Skull Nebula from Earth?”
“From Earth, perhaps one thousand, six hundred light years,” Mannarius answered. “But from where we are now… over two thousand.”
“Two thou –” Citlally began, the word stopping short in her throat. “Where are we?”
“We just left Sardonia, remember? That puts us at the edge of the Veil Nebula.”
“But… No, I’ve studied the Veil. It is near a thousand and a half light years from Earth. How did we get out this far?
“It… well… It is a long story,” Mannarius told her. “As I said before, I don’t know all the details of what happened.”
“What you need right now is to rest,” Iratze told her. “Do you feel up to eating something?”
“Food sounds wonderful, but what about this?” Citlally held up the arm with an IV needle taped to it.
“Eating will not interfere with it,” the nurse assured her. “Captain, what do we have for her?”
“You look like you could use a fresh-cooked meal,” Mannarius noted with a smirk. “Unfortunately, all we have right now are space rations. It was a tough choice between infirmary and kitchen, but I would rather have a medic on hand than a chef any day. I hope that will do until we get to the next space station.”
“I’m famished… I could eat anything!”
Mannarius grinned and started to turn towards the door. “Don’t let the Dith’theer of Old Liddith know that; they eat the most foul of things!” Then he chuckled and passed through the doorway.
Alone with Iratze, Citlally sighed. She looked up at her nurse, unsure what to say at first. Then a question came to her. “Why do I need to have an IV?”
Nurse Iratze pulled up a chair beside the bed and sat down. “You’ve been through a lot since leaving Earth,” she said as she laid a hand on Citlally’s. “Just like the captain, I don’t know the details of it, but knowing that you were on Sardonia is bad enough. Nobody is ever treated well there; even the native species have been struggling lately.”
“What… what do they do to people down there?”
“I’ve only heard stories about it,” Iratze explained. “Servitude, slavery, working in the fields, digging in the mines. Their culture was not ready for alien contact, though, and they ended up killing a lot of the slaves they bought just from the way they treat them. A lot more go missing.”
“If they weren’t ready, then…”
“How did they make contact?” the nurse finished for her. “Another species took advantage of them. Some say that it was the K’zzyrch, but they deny it. Whoever it was, they offered the Wilang modern technology in exchange for all of their riches. Their civilization has fallen deeper and deeper into decay ever since.”
Citlally nodded her understanding. Then she glanced downward, and gasped at what she saw. The hand the Iratze had rested on hers had long, slender fingers that looked especially dexterous, the fur on the back of them thin and soft. The strange part, however, was that she had two opposable thumbs, one on each side of her hand.
“You… Your hand!” Citlally said, forgetting that perhaps it was not polite to show her surprise quite so much.
When Iratze looked down at it and found nothing of particular interest, she gave Citlally a questioning look.
The human girl blushed when she realized how she was asking. “I – I’m sorry, I should have known better. It just took me by surprise is all. Do all Gliesians have hands like yours?”
“We get asked that quite a lot,” Iratze replied as a knowing expression crossed her face. “To many species, our dual thumbs look much like a mutation. To us, your single thumbs look clumsy and difficult to work with. Still, my people make expert surgeons, so many of us practice medicine as we travel through space.”
“Medicine,” Citlally breathed, thinking to herself. After a few moments, she met the nurse’s eyes. “I feel as though I should be thanking you greatly. I don’t know what happened to me, but I feel so…” She sighed before going on. “Lost… lost, but also empty.”
“I understand,” Iratze replied, trying to be reassuring but not wanting to reveal too much, afraid to incite her to hysteria once again. “This far from home, it’s easy to feel lost. We will get you back to your husband, I can assure you of that. Mannarius is known for keeping his promises.”
* ** *** ** *
For days, Citlally ate like she’d never eaten before. Mannarius was happy to oblige her appetite, although it did make him worry whether his store of space rations would hold out until they arrived at the station. He had Dhruv take the ship to its top speed, but only when he was there to oversee the controls. Other times, he left his co-pilot to fly the ship at a more trustworthy pace, and left the bridge to check in on his precious cargo.
He was beyond relieved when she felt ready to slide out of bed and stretch her legs. The morning that he walked in with a tray of food and saw her sitting in a chair rather lying in bed was like an immense weight being lifted off his shoulders. She looked up at him as soon as the door opened and beamed.
“Good morning, Mannarius!” she greeted him.
The tray nearly slid out of his fingers, so surprised was he to see the empty bed. “Wha – Well, I’ll be! I didn’t expect to see you sitting there.”
“I couldn’t stand to just lie there for another day,” Citlally replied, as though in explanation. Then she held up her arm. “Nurse Iratze was even nice enough to get that ridiculous needle out of my arm.”
Mannarius peered at the arm, free at last from the long clear tubing that had been pumping medicine into her, then looked across the room. Nurse Iratze was peering through a microscope, presumably checking the results of one of the many tests that she’d run.
“Is she really well enough for that?” he asked her.
“And all this time I had thought you trusted me,” Iratze said as she turned and winked at him. “Don’t fret, captain. Her iron levels have gone up quite a lot. Now that she’s eating again, I can give her vitamins and injections. It is better to let her heal this way.”
“I am glad to hear that,” he replied, and set the tray of food on a rolling table that he pulled up to Citlally. “How are you feeling?”
Citlally took several bites before she was willing to pause and answer the question. “Better, I suppose. Iratze has done so much to help me, don’t get me wrong. I just…” She sighed, not wanting to sound ungrateful.
“Are you in pain?” he asked her, worried about that foremost.
Citlally shrugged. “I feel sore, yes.”
“Do you want something for it?” he cut in before she could go on. “I have a full stock of analgesics. Anything to make you comfortable.”
“I really don’t want anything,” she replied, shaking her head. “My head has been in a fog for long enough.”
“Not just from the medicine,” Iratze reminded her. “You might not be on death’s doorstep anymore, but you will not feel quite like yourself for a while. I want the medics at the space station to take a look at you before we head to the Skull Nebula. Their resources are not quite as limited as ours are here.”
“I understand that…” Citlally replied, “but it’s not as bad as it sounds. More like a dull ache. I would much rather stretch my legs and go for a walk.”
“That would do you a lot of good, as long as you do not go alone,” Iratze told her. “You need help nearby in case your symptoms suddenly worsen.”
“I’ll walk with her,” Mannarius chimed in immediately. “Besides, this is my chance to give her a tour of my ship.”
The captain flashed Citlally a wide grin, and she smiled back at him, although she still felt weak and it was more of a half-smile. It didn’t take her much longer to finish off her food and scoot the rolling table over. When she pushed herself slowly to her feet, Mannarius offered her his arm, and she took it timidly. It felt strange to take another man’s arm, but she sensed that he meant to be a gentleman. Then he ushered her out of the infirmary and into the hall.
“Please allow me to offer you my official welcome,” he said, grinning at her all the while, “on board my ship.”
“You have my thanks,” she replied. “How long have you been captain?”
“Ohhh…” he said, rubbing his chin as they walked down the hall. He thought about it for a moment. “For as long as I can remember,” he finally told her.
“Don’t be silly,” she told him. “You couldn’t have been captain when you were a child.”
“Why not?” he asked wryly. “My father was a captain before me, and his father before him. Space-faring runs in my blood.”
His endearing manner and playful humor made her chuckle. “How can I argue with that?”
“Why argue?” he countered. “You have your own personal escort. And, need I remind you, I got you off of Sardonia.”
Citlally paused, thinking that she ought to know a reply to his comment, but it evaded her. She just smiled at him instead.
“Come in here,” he told her as they came to a double-doored entrance. “I want you to meet someone.”
Mannarius pressed a button near the doorway, and the two silvery doors slid apart with a soft whoosh, revealing the ship’s bridge. It was not as large as ones that she’d seen before, though it was a good deal bigger than the cockpit of an airplane, and Citlally presumed that it meant that the ship was not very big either.
“I welcome you, my dear, to the heart of my ship, the bridge of the Lionstar.” Mannarius declared proudly, ushering her inside.
As she followed him in, she saw another man sitting in one of the chairs. He stood up right away when he saw the captain enter. “Sir!”
“No need to make such a show of it,” Mannarius chuckled. Then he turned to Citlally and said, “This is my co-pilot, Dhruv. We’re lucky that he would rather work for me than be a captain of his own ship, because he is the one who flies this ship when I go to look in on you. He’s the best co-pilot that any Leomian could ever ask for!”
Dhruv gave a smirk and lowered his gaze, trying to look modest. “I’m just lucky to have such a good captain.”
Citlally liked him already, the way he seemed so friendly and kind. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said, holding her hand out towards him.
“Oh, the old Earth custom!” Dhruv noted, grinning as widely as his captain. Then he stuck out his own hand towards the human girl. “An honor to have you on board.”
Citlally looked him over as they shook hands. He looked a lot like Mannarius, though younger and much leaner. His fur was a darker, somewhat cinnamon, shade of brown. His features were still feline-like, though of a different sort of cat than the lion that the captain reminded her of. He seemed cheerful, but more respectful; less of the joker than what Mannarius acted like.
“I’m glad to be here, if the tales of where I had been are at all true.”
Dhruv nodded. “Sardonia is a nasty world. There aren’t many places that would be worse to find yourself in.”
“Well…” Citlally replied, “I can see why some people would be glad they don’t remember it, then.”
Dhruv was about to open his mouth to say something more, but Mannarius took the human girl’s hand. “Come with me; I want to show you the rest of my ship!”
As he escorted her towards the door, Mannarius turned and gave Dhruv a warning look. The co-pilot gave back a perplexed expression, but did not argue with his captain.
They walked down the hall, and Citlally was shown the ship’s tiny kitchen, which wasn’t good for anything more than storing rations, heating them in a device that looked vaguely like one of Earth’s old microwaves, and eating them at the small round table. It was not a very cozy place to eat, she thought as she looked around, and they didn’t stay for long.
The place that he called the engine room was nothing like the grand chambers depicted in science fiction films of old; it was mostly access panels and control centers, and it was more cramped than she’d imagined it would be. There were tools and spare parts organized in their own wall spaces, and a screen on one wall indicating that all systems were functional, but otherwise it was unremarkable. At least, she thought to herself, it was bigger than the kitchen. The ship also had a couple of unused chambers, and a cargo area below the main level.
“This,” Mannarius said as they came to the last door at the end of the hall, “is my room. The best one on the ship, if I dare say so myself.”
Citlally stared it him warily.
“Relax,” he told her. “I have no questionable intentions, I assure you.”
When the girl only blinked, he pressed a button on the panel that looked like the outline of a lion’s head, and the door swooshed open. The room inside was the biggest one on the ship, with two small couches, a low table, and even a shelf of books. No bed was readily apparent, but Citlally judged by the other door in the room that there was an inner chamber arranged for sleeping. One wall was made entirely of windows, and she was so fascinated by the sight of them that she hurried over and pressed her hands against the glass.
“What a view you have!” she cried as she gazed out at the black velvet of the æther. “I have always dreamed of being in a room like this…”
“Happy to oblige,” Mannarius said, crossing the room more slowly. The door closed itself behind him.
“If only Endan were here to see it with me,” she whispered to herself, her gaze turning downwards.
Mannarius wasn’t sure what to say to her just then. He was not even certain how she would react if he touched her shoulder to try to comfort her, so he held back. “I promised him that I would get you back to him as quickly as I could,” was all he could muster.
Citlally looked up at him. “You have to know something about what split us apart!”
“I’m afraid that I’m just as ignorant as you are,” he replied as he shook his head. “If you could remember anything…”
“Then how did you know where to look for me?”
“It took a lot of searching and detective work,” Mannarius explained to her. “Even Endan couldn’t tell me anything.”
“You met him, didn’t you?” Citlally begged to know, trying to keep herself from crying. “In person.”
Mannarius nodded. “That I did.” He stepped over to the closest couch and picked up a long scarf of woven black yarn. “He gave me this and said that it would help you know that he really had sent me.”
“This scarf…” she breathed, running her fingers over the soft wool. The way it sparkled seemed so familiar to her, but the memory was so distant. “I know this is from Endan, and I think I even gave this to him, but… But I don’t remember I when that was.”
“Neither does he,” Mannarius told her. “My guess is that when you two are back together, the memories will come flooding in.”
“Maybe they will,” Citlally sighed, not feeling at all hopeful about the idea. She wrapped the scarf around her neck, and in doing so caught a glimpse of her arm just beneath the sleeve of her shirt.
“Mannarius… What are these black lines?” she asked, noting how they looked somewhat like a spiderweb might if it had been made from black lightning bolts. “Did I get some sort of tattoo?”
He shook his head mournfully. “That is part of why you cannot remember. It’s the mark left behind when you receive an injection of the venom from a K’zzyrch. They call it k’zshyrk, and they will not hesitate to use it on any captive who will not obey them.”
“They punish them by making them forget things?” she asked, raising a brow.
“That is just a side-effect of it. The venom makes most species pass out immediately. There are a few that it kills right away, though in ancient times the K’zzyrch preferred their prey alive yet docile. Rumor has it that it also gives you some incredible dreams, too.”
“Have you had a dream from it?”
“Not at all!” Mannarius replied. “I’ve never been injected with the venom, and I make very sure to stay away from any and all K’zzyrch. I’m just telling you what I know about it. But look here,” he said, pulling her sleeve up and touching a point at the center to the jagged black lines. “This is probably where the needle went in. The lines radiate out from there.”
Citlally twisted as best she could to look at it, and then asked, “How long does it take to fade away?”
Mannarius shrugged. “It’s permanent in most species; sometimes they fade away, but it takes ages. There are doctors out there who claim that they can get rid of it, but their reputations and results do not match their claims.”
Scowling at the look of it, she pulled her sleeve back down. “This is not my idea of body art,” grumbled. “The Aztec people get their tattoos as part of a ceremony; they do not take them on impulse.”
“The what?” Mannarius asked, sounding suddenly worried. “I thought you were human. What is an Aztec?”
Citlally glared at him incredulously. “There are a great many types of humans, you should know. We’re all Homo sapiens sapiens, but we have different skin tones.”
“I know about that!” he replied with a grin. “When I studied Earth, I learned about different races. So your race is Aztec?”
“No,” she said flatly. “That is the name of my tribe. Just how much have you studied Earth?”
“Wow, you are feisty!” Mannarius commented, as though he’d heard her thusly described from someone else before. “Listen, I didn’t mean to offend you. I have studied Earth more than any other planet besides my home-world, but I will admit that there are holes in my knowledge. Terran history is very complex, the way everybody moved around and tried to conquer the land. I did read a little bit about tribes, though. The word is about indigenous people, isn’t it?”
“Most of the time,” she replied begrudgingly. “Most native cultures were decimated by invaders from other regions hundreds of years ago. It was only in the past century that international and local laws were put into place that offered real protection and gave us a chance to regrow our populations and revive traditions. Now my people can stand tall once again.”
Mannarius nodded thoughtfully, then turned to look out the window. After a few minutes of silence, in which he seemed to be thinking very critically, he asked her, “Citlally, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but does Endan count as Aztec, too?”
Citlally gave him a questioning look.
“I don’t ask to be offensive, you know. I know that some cultures believe in the separation of different varieties of their own species, but I can assure you that mine is not one of them. I just want to get to know Earth better.”
“No,” Citlally replied as she gave him an amused smile. “Endan is Celtic. His ancestors are from Ireland, and mine from Aztlán, or so the legends say. Even so, there is no reason that I cannot be with him. Love is love, the new laws recognize.”
“Yet your history is filled with war,” Mannarius reminded her.
“The will of the few and the subjugation of the many,” Citlally told him. “That was the way of our past, but now we’ve paved the way for peace. You are a peculiar man, Mannarius, with peculiar questions. Have you not studied our most recent century?”
The lion-like man gave her a wide grin. “I’ve read a few things here and there, mostly from the late twentieth century.”
Citlally groaned. “The nineteen hundreds were, well… I hardly even know how to describe those years.”
“They were a fascinating time!” he exclaimed, his excitement becoming obvious. “Learning how to fly. The rapid development of technology – the music!”
“Civil rights violations, bombs, human atrocities… all despite the fact that they knew better.”
“True, true…” he conceded, seeing that she was far too strong-willed to be argued with. “But what about the music? The sounds for the last few decades of that century are some of my favorite.”
Citlally shrugged. “There are a few good ones,” she admitted nonchalantly.
“Do you remember ‘The Joker’?” he asked her, his voice cheerful with hope. When she gave him a confused expression, he recited some of the lyrics. “’Some people call me the space cowboy, some call me the gangster of love.’ Do you know it?”
“Oooh,” she said after thinking about it for a moment. “Yes, I’ve heard it a couple of times.”
“My cousin played it for me years ago, when we were studying Earth together. It’s been my favorite Earth song ever since. ‘Cause I’m a picker, I’m a grinner, I’m a lover, and I’m a sinner. I play my music in the sun,’” he went on singing. “Steve Miller Band, remember?”
“Actually,” she said, the song starting to play through her mind, “I think that song suits you quite well.”
“Thank you!” he exclaimed, taking her hands in his – they were so big and wide, like feline paws that had evolved into fingers – as he grinned ecstatically. “That is the best compliment I’ve ever gotten from a human!”
“Happy to be of service,” she replied, though not quite as excited as he seemed to be. “So you consider yourself a space cowboy?”
“Only of the highest caliber,” he said with a wink.
They went on talking for a while, Mannarius asking about Earth, and Citlally answering him as best she could. After a time, she gave a long sigh, and stared out the window at the fading Veil Nebula.
“One thousand… four hundred… seventy light years from Earth,” she said, sadness entering her voice. “One thousand, four hundred seventy light years from home, and who knows how far from Endan. And no matter what you or Nurse Iratze say, I would much rather remember how I got here than hide the truth of what happened to me… even if there is pain somewhere in that truth.”
“Is that the Aztec way?” Mannarius asked her.
Citlally was about the answer his question when another voice entered the room. “Captain, we have the space station in sight.”
“That is the intercom,” he explained quickly. Then he walked over to a table and pressed a blue button. “Understood, Dhruv. I’ll be there shortly.”
“There is a space station out this far?” Citlally asked.
Mannarius nodded. “Remote Outpost 3-14. It’s not much, but it’s the friendliest place you’ll find this close to the Veil Nebula. Come with me,” he said, showing her out of his room. He hurried her down the hall and stopped outside the door to the infirmary. “You should wait in here. If you show up on the visual when I request docking with the station, they’re going to ask a lot of questions.”
“Please?” he asked her. “I have to make sure they aren’t looking for any humans.
“Is it that bad out here?”
“I’ll explain later,” he told her as he opened the door for her. “Nurse, will you bring her something to drink? We should be docking with the space station soon.”
Even as Nurse Iratze nodded, Citlally went on trying to ask questions, but Mannarius did not stay to answer anything. Instead, he hurried along to the ship’s bridge, grinned at his co-pilot, and took a seat in the captain’s chair.
“All right, Dhruv, send out the hailing signal as soon as we’re within range. Accelerate to full speed.”
“Understood, captain,” Dhruv confirmed. He tapped several buttons on his control panel, and the ship sped forward.
Within a few minutes, several beeps came from the panel, and Dhruv entered in the series of commands that would send out the hailing signal. It didn’t take long for the communication deck to ring.
“Incoming communication, captain,” Dhruv said. He pressed a button, and the screen before them brought up the image on an alien woman.
“You have contacted the space station designated as Remote Outpost three dash one four,” she said in a business-like tone. “Please identify yourselves.”
“I am Captain Mannarius Klavernning III of the Lionstar, a Sigma-class star-ship.”
“Sigma-class?” the woman asked. “What is a tiny ship like that doing near the Veil Nebula?”
“Just keeping a promise to an old friend,” Mannarius replied, giving her his most charming grin.
The woman did not seem impressed. “Please state your crew complement.”
“Captain Mannarius Klavernning III, Co-pilot Dhruv Caralynx, and ship’s medic, Nurse Iratze Vuly,” he stated. Then he pressed a button on his own panel. “Sending credentials over now.”
“Any passengers or cargo to declare?” she asked as she looked down at her panel, reviewed what she had received, and entered in some data of her own.
“No cargo beyond our personal belongings,” the captain replied. “We have one passenger, and Nurse Iratze requests medical sanction for her.”
Dhruv looked to his captain, trying not to seem too nervous.
“None,” Mannarius told her. “The patient was in a life-threatening situation.”
The space station communicator gave him a serious look, and then entered some data into her computer. After a moment, it signaled back to her. “In compliance Section 874-Tau of the Intragalactic Union Pact, medical sanction is granted for the protection of life that is in danger. You may all come aboard Remote Outpost three dash one four once you have successfully docked and passed through decontamination. Do you have any infections, parasites, or pests that we should be aware of?”
“None,” Mannarius replied.
She nodded, then transmitted some data to him. “You may dock in bay 775,” she told him. “There will be a crew waiting for you.”
Once the transmission ended, Dhruv guided the ship down to the docking section of the space station, slowed the ship, and then guided it inside. The doors to bay 755 closed as the Lionstar touched ground and the engines began to power down.
“Captain, we have arrived.”
“Well done, Dhruv,” Mannarius replied as he stood up. “Go help Iratze and Citlally prepare to disembark. I’m going to meet the welcoming party.”
“Understood, captain,” Dhruv said, and he headed out the door towards the infirmary.
Mannarius walked at a more leisurely pace down to the lower deck, entered the code to release the air lock and open the panel to the outside, and descended down the stairway that unfolded for him. His boots landed on the floor of the space station’s docking bay with a proud thunk, and he stepped around the ship towards the door to the hallway. The crewmen were already waiting for him just inside the bay.
“Welcome aboard, captain,” one of them said.
“Thank you, thank you!” Mannarius replied, beaming at them happily. “It’s good to be here.”
He looked over the aliens who worked at Remote Outpost 3-14. They were all the same species, he noted, something that was somewhere between reptilian and avian, but be could not be any more specific than that. They were tall and lean, and wore gray uniforms over their green and blue speckled bodies. They didn’t bother with shoes on their narrow, clawed feet; again, somewhere between reptile and bird in functionality.
“Are you Restherians?” Mannarius asked them. It was the only species he knew of that could was a close match.
One of them nodded. “Most of the crew of this space station are.”
“That makes you allies of Gliese, doesn’t it? My ship’s medic is Gliesian.”
“So the communications officer told us,” another one replied.
It was only a couple minutes more before Dhruv stepped off of the Lionstar. Nurse Iratze guided Citlally down the steps with as much care as she would a frail child, and when she looked up, she smiled brightly.
“Restherians!” she beamed. “Bright greetings to you, old friends.”
They smiled back at her. “Starlit days to you,” one replied.
The nurse talked with them briefly before the crew escorted everyone to the next room.
“Busy day?” Mannarius asked as they began the process of decontamination.
“Now that you are here, yes,” the decontamination medic replied.
The captain furrowed his brow at how much they insisted on being business-like. “Happy to be of service,” he said, hoping to lighten the mood. He was disappointed that a half-smile was all he got in return.
“What is your patient’s ailment?” one crewman asked the nurse.
Iratze hesitated for a moment, and then answered, “I’m afraid that I must claim medic-patient confidentiality in this case. I mean no offense to you, but she has been through so much.”
“As you wish,” he replied, taking notes in his hand-held computer. “At least you seem healthy.”
“And for that I give thanks every day,” Iratze said.
The crewman gave her a smile, and then turned to Citlally. He took her arm and ran a scanner across it, which sent data directly to the computer. “Nothing infectious,” he noted. “Would you like an escort to the medical level?”
“I would appreciate that very much, yes,” Nurse Iratze replied. “And thank you.”
They were soon cleared to leave decontamination, and the crewmen showed them the way to the transport lift. After ascending a few levels, Captain Mannarius and Dhruv got off and headed out to secure their rooms for the short stay that he had planned. It was a few more levels up to get to the medical center. The crew introduced Iratze to the station’s doctors, and went along their way after she thanked them profusely.
One of Remote Outpost 3-14’s doctors was Restherian. Another was Gliesian, and the third was something with spotted pink fur that seemed strangely familiar to Citlally, though she couldn’t quite explain why. There was nobody else waiting in their front office, and at Iratze’s suggestion, the pink-furred one showed Citlally to a room down the hall where she could wash up. She set out a white tunic-like shirt for her, and a long white skirt to go with it, plus a pair of simple white slippers. Meanwhile, Iratze explained the situation to the doctors in a private room.
“My patient has been through a terrible trauma,” she began. “In fact, she cannot remember any of it, so horrific was her experience.”
“Are you hinting that we shouldn’t tell her what has happened?” the other Gliesian asked, though his tone showed that he did not like the idea.
“Yes, Doctor Jabiloy,” Iratze replied. “When I began treating her, I told her once that she was going through a miscarriage caused by the lavishta potion, and she started kicking and screaming. I had to give her a dose of anolyxidyne to sedate her.”
Doctor Jabiloy tapped the screen of his hand-held computer to enter in what he was he was being told about his new patient. “Did it work on her?”
“Very much so,” Iratze replied with a nod. “She went right to sleep and I was able to complete my procedure and put a stop to her massive bleeding. When she awoke, however, she could remember nothing about what she’d been through.”
The pink-furred doctor walked in as the nurse was finishing her sentence and sat down with the other doctors. “Your patient has the mark of a k’zshyrk injection,” she stated. “I have no doubts that she’s been through an ordeal that we cannot even imagine.”
The Restherian doctor scooted his chair forward and loaded a screen on his own computer. “This is a human patient, am I right?” Iratze confirmed his assumption, and he went on. “What we have here is a human female who has been given first k’zshyrk venom, and then lavishta potion, which caused massive bleeding and a traumatic miscarriage, and after that she was given anolyxidyne to sedate her.”
“That is correct, Doctor Andryx.”
The Restherian doctor looked over the computer screen once it processed that data, and then began with the follow-up questions that it suggested. “For humans, hemoglobin levels in the blood are critical. What was her lowest reading?”
“She had an Hgb level of 4.8 after I completed her procedure, and before any treatment.”
The three doctors looked at one another in awe, and commented among themselves for a few minutes. When they settled down, Doctor Andryx said, “It’s incredible that she survived this experience. We often hear anecdotes about humans who lose not only their offspring due to the lavishta potion, but also their own lives. Do you know who gave it to her, or how many doses she was given?”
Nurse Iratze shook her head sadly. “My captain rescued her when she was lost and delirious. She had already lost a great deal of blood.”
The doctors talked amongst themselves again, and then looked back to the nurse. “You have an incredibly resilient patient here,” Doctor Jabiloy told her. “Not only that, but your work at preserving her life is commendable. We are going to examine her now. Can you enter some more data into the computer for us? It will save automatically at each screen, and upload to the computers in our exam rooms at each step.”
“Certainly, doctors,” Iratze agreed.
“We will come back for you when we are ready,” Doctor Jabiloy told her, turning the computer around so that she could reach it.
Then the three doctors stood up and filed out of the room. Citlally had finished showering, and was dressed in the white clothing provided for her. They showed her to the first exam room, where she was laid down on a long, flat bed just outside the tube-like entry to a massive machine. Once she was settled in, the bed slid inside the tube, and the room darkened. The doctors went behind a control panel, which was shielded by a glass wall, and looked over what the scanner revealed to them.
“Heart rate indicates that blood pressure is still not within a healthy range,” the pink-furred doctor said first.
“Agreed, Doctor Quelliros. Her blood hemoglobin levels are better than 4.8 now, but still not what a healthy human should be at.” Doctor Andryx gave the scanner a few minutes to display more results, and then read them off. “Currently at 7.5 blood hemoglobin, but the desired level is at least twelve.”
Doctor Jabiloy pressed a few buttons on the control panel. “Ah, the nurse has entered in her treatments. Vitamin and fluid infusions, ample rest… protein, iron. Plenty of food once she regained consciousness.”
“She needs a blood transfusion,” Doctor Andryx stated, the weight of his words so final that nobody argued with him. “The problem is, humans have terrible rates of alien blood rejection.”
“We have no human blood at this space station.” Jabiloy noted after he pulled up the medical supply inventory.
“It’s too bad,” Quelliros said. “If she was healthy, we could ask her to provide us with some for our stores. As it is, her best course of action for her hemoglobin trauma is to get to a place with other humans and find one who can donate to her. We do have a more nutrient-rich intravenous fluid we can give her, but otherwise she will have to stay relaxed until she can get a blood transfusion.”
The other doctors nodded in agreement, and began to enter data into her treatment plan. Doctor Andryx brought up the screen that focused on her abdomen. “Her womb seems to be healing,” he told the others. “It still has a lot to do, though.”
“If only her blood supply was better, it would be fully healed by now,” Jabiloy added.
“At least she will be able to have children at all in the future,” Quelliros commented. “Many species who miscarry because of the lavishta potion are rendered sterile. She should refrain from sexual activity until her health improves on all fronts.”
Andryx nodded his agreement and entered in the data. “We will not discuss that part with her today. We can give Nurse Iratze a data file to give to her next doctor, but with the trauma that she’s been through, I don’t want to see her have to be sedated again. There are other doctors in the Galactic Medical Union studying the effects of sedatives when combined with k’zshyrk venom, and the mental repercussions are not at all good.”
“She has a life-mate,” Quelliros noted as more of Iratze’s data came through the computer. “I wonder if they knew that they’d conceived.”
“If they knew, would they really have left Earth?” Jabiloy asked.
“There are no regulations against it,” Quelliros told him. “Some of Earth’s cultures promote the idea of birth on the planet, but not all of them. It’s hard to say for certain with this couple.”
“Her name came through.” Doctor Andryx called their attention back to the screen. “Citlally Winterhawk. Human, born on Earth in North America, territory of Aztlán, Aztec tribal heritage. She…” He paused for a moment as the computer processed both Iratze’s information and data coming in from the Intragalactic Database. “She was on board the Hoshi-Narada, bound for Space Station Regulus II, and that is the last thing she remembers.”
The three doctors stared at the screen in awe, each of their mouths agape. News was coming in about recent events, and they could hardly believe what they were seeing.
“Space Station Regulus II…” Quelliros whispered. “That was one of the stations that the K’zzyrch attacked.” She watched in horror as the newsreel showed the space station being split apart, ships and shuttles flying away from it in all directions. “I cannot believe that she survived that.”
“She didn’t survive any explosion,” Doctor Andryx clarified for her. “If she was injected with the venom, that means they took her as a slave.”
“This close to the Veil Nebula, we can assume that she was sold to Sardonian slave-keepers. Look at this,” Doctor Jabiloy said as he pulled up another file. “In her Galactic passport, she has incredibly long hair. I’m certain that she was taken to the Wilang and given the lavishta potion by them.”
“They never use it correctly,” Quelliros replied. “It’s no wonder they kill so many of their slaves.”
“This human was lucky that Captain Mannarius found her,” Doctor Andryx told the others. None of them dared to bring up the question of how she’d gotten free, nor how he’d gotten into Sardonian airspace.
As they finished entering a plan of care into the computer, Citlally began to feel impatient. She called out to them from inside the bio-scan tunnel. “Tepahtuani?” she began, and they all looked over. “Tepahtuani, Xinechpalēhu!”
As Citlally went on calling out words that they could not make out, the doctors looked to one another. “What language is she using?” Andryx asked. “We don’t have the codex for it.”
“It could be her tribal language,” Jabiloy suggested. “Most of them don’t get uploaded.”
As they went on talking, Quelliros stepped out from behind the control panels and up to the bio-scan tunnel. She pressed the button that slid the bed back out, then helped Citlally sit up.
“Look at her brain scan,” Andryx noted as he pulled up the focus screen. “Her language cortex is dealing with a lot of her trauma and her brain tries to sort out what it’s been through. It is no wonder she can hardly speak. I’m surprised that she’s intelligible at all.”
Doctor Jabiloy shook his head. “Humans were hardly ready for space travel.”
“More ready than the Wilang were, at least.”
“You have a point there, Andryx.”
“You’re going to be all right,” Doctor Quelliros told her patient as she helped her off the bed. “You’ve been through a lot, but you are on the mend, my dear.”
Citlally looked into the doctor’s wide pink eyes as she felt her own well up with tears. “Dochtúir, cad a tharla do mo huband?”
“That’s a different language,” Andryx noted. “The computer is processing it now.”
“Codex acquired,” Jabiloy said after a minute. “According to the computer, she’s speaking Irish Gaelic now. Any idea why?”
“The database says that her mate spoke it,” Doctor Andryx told him. “Quelliros, our translators are going to take a few minutes to update so that we can understand her.”
Quelliros nodded to the men as she tried to comfort the human. “We’re going to look after you, Citlally. Don’t worry.”
“Cá bhfuil sé?” Citlally begged her. “Where is Endan?”
The doctors gave a sigh of relief when the translators began to process her language.
“I’m afraid I don’t know where he is,” Quelliros admitted. She gave the other doctors a worried look. “Perhaps Nurse Iratze knows?”
“Get her in here,” Jabiloy told the man beside him.
Doctor Andryx nodded and rushed out of the room. In the time it took him to return with the nurse, Citlally began shaking, then sobbing, and tears ran down her cheeks. Although Quelliros held her close and rubbed her back as she tried to speak calming words, the human could not be soothed.
“What has happened to me?” she managed to say between sobs.
“Quite a lot,” Quelliros admitted to her. “But all of us are here to help you. Look, even Nurse Iratze is here.”
“Don’t try to remember it all,” Iratze told her and she crossed the room to take her hands. “It’s going to take a long time for you to heal, Citlally. Be patient.”
Citlally looked up into Iratze’s eyes and nodded weakly.
“We’ll get you back to Endan, don’t you worry.”
“Does he know?” the girl asked her. “Does he know that terrible things have happened to me?”
“That I don’t know, my dear. But we’ll get you to him, I can promise you that.”