Your Intensity Disturbs Me
Ark crouched over Ungle’s sprawled, green-splattered body and checked for life signs. One of Ungle’s tentacles ended in messy pulp. Ark snatched a tube from a bag slung over his shoulder and tore off the seal. Lifting Ungle’s unconscious head from the ground, Ark pulled on the breather helm and carefully poured the murky green liquid into the repository.
Standing beside Ark, Teal peered down at the scene, tense and waiting. Nearby, Zuri paced before a large boulder next to a winding stream. Sterling sat limply on the boulder, his head propped in his hands, looking sick and weak.
With a jerk and a snort, Ungle’s eyes fluttered open. He stared at Ark, a puzzled frown rippling across his face. “What’re—” Wincing in pain, he writhed, groaned, and lifted his injured tentacle. His eyes widened in obvious disbelief. “How—?”
Glancing aside, Ark barked an order at Zuri. “Get that medical kit you always carry around.”
Zuri froze, peering at Ark. “It’s for Ingots, not Crestas.” Glancing at the writhing tentacle, he shook his head and swallowed. “But I’ve got a decent sickbay onboard. Let’s go.” He glanced at Teal. “It’s not far, hidden in a cave.”
Ark backed out of the way as Zuri and Teal lifted Ungle’s body and half-led, half-carried him over the stream to a large cave.
Sterling followed, his head bowed and his hands clasped behind his back.
Snug in the cave, the ship gleamed like an oval blue-black jewel. The dripping walls housed colonies of bats and lichen. A few stalactites hung from the ceiling on the right, while broken stems showed where the ship had barreled through.
After tapping a key code, Zuri stood aside and the shiny bay door rose from the cave floor. A bright shaft of light directed their steps to the interior.
Once inside the Ingot ship, Zuri pointed to a small niche in the rear. A reclining chair with armrests embedded with wires, tubes, and assorted medical gear stood prominently in the center. A large console with three colored panels arched from the left wall.
Zuri adjusted the seat, and he and Teal dropped Ungle in place, directing his tentacles to the side and laying the injured limb on a rolling side table. Zuri waved Ark to the console. “It’s set up for Ingots, but there are overrides so it can be adjusted for the needs of other species. He glanced at Teal. “Though, I don’t know if we’ve ever used it on a Cresta before.”
Ark nodded, his gaze sweeping over the instrument panel. “I’ll make do.” He glanced up with a wavering smile. “We scientists are ingenious at this sort of thing.” He locked eyes with Zuri. “Don’t worry. It’s not as bad as it seems. Our tentacles grow back.”
Zuri closed his eyes and exhaled a long breath. “Yes, of course. I should’ve remembered.”
Teal strode up and peered at Ungle’s closed eyes. “I think he’s out again.”
Ark nodded. “Certainly hope so. I gave him enough painkiller to knock out the entire Cambial Zoo.” He rubbed two tentacles together and scanned the console. “I’ll just trim off the nasty bit, and in a few days, he’ll feel as good as new, though a little off-balance until it grows out again.”
Sterling plopped down on a swivel chair near the front and called back. “So, you want to explain what happened?” Zuri ran a hand over his gleaming helmet and sighed. “I didn’t know what he was doing. At first, I just figured he was another Cresta scout…odd after everything, but then I’m not always kept informed of changes. Still, he was out of order.”
Ark glanced up.
Frowning, Teal stepped over to Zuri, his hands on his hips. “So you blasted him? Why?”
“He kept shooting at birds. I couldn’t understand what he was doing. But then I remembered that your friend, the cute little Luxonian, liked to transform into an eagle—”
Ark dropped the scalpel, and it clattered onto the tray. “Oh blast!”
Teal pounded the wall console with his fist and the bay door slid open.
Sterling jogged forward. “Wait! You don’t even know if he actually hit her or where—”
Teal swung around, his eyes glowing in rage. “Then where is she?”
Sterling clutched his arm. “I’ll come with you.”
Teal shook Sterling away. “Not likely. You’ll only slow me down.” He swung out the door and charged into the glaring sunshine.
With an explosive huff, Zuri slapped his hand against his thigh. He glanced back at Ark. “I’ll go. You stay and keep an eye on these two.” His gaze swiveled from Ungle to Teal. “We’ve had enough accidents this cycle.”
Ark retrieved his scalpel and started trimming. “I’d say.”
Teal lifted Sienna’s limp body off the dusty ground and followed Zuri back to the ship.
As the two crossed over the threshold, Ark closed his eyes and muttered a long slew of Crestonian curse words.
Sweat poured down Teal’s face as he stumbled forward.
Sterling jumped in to assist.
Zuri jogged to the right and pointed. “Here’s another pullout chair—for emergencies.” He gripped a red handle and yanked it down. A smaller version of the chair Ungle occupied unfolded from the wall.
Cradling Sienna, Teal laid her down and brushed strands of hair from her face. “I don’t see any injury, but she won’t wake up.”
Sterling placed his hand on her forehead, closed his eyes, and frowned in concentration. With a long exhaling breath, he opened his eyes. “She’s still alive.” He nodded while his gaze rolled over her. “It’s good instinct to maintain the shape of your host environment.” He glanced at Teal. “She’s clever; I’ll give her that. Most would’ve panicked—but she knew it would be safest to appear human if she was injured and couldn’t travel.”
Teal glanced over at Ungle’s slumped form. “Is he going to live?”
Sitting in a padded chair against the wall, Ark waved a tentacle in droopy-eyed weariness. “Of course. It’s not a life-threatening procedure, just rather painful.” He yawned. “And tedious.”
Zuri fell into a chair on the opposite wall. “My body can take almost anything but—by the Divide—I’m emotionally exhausted.”
Sterling glanced at Teal. “Go pace around the ship or something. Your intensity disturbs me.”
Teal stalked over to Ungle and glared at his sleeping form. “I ought to kill him.”
Ark leaped to his feet. “Oh, no, you don’t! Not after I just spent worthy corpuscles keeping him alive.”
Zuri’s eyebrows rose.
Ark puckered his lips. “I had to give him a transfusion—to counteract the shock.” He blinked. “We’re a brilliant race but not terribly resilient.”
Teal nudged Ungle’s shoulder. “Wake up, Cresta. I have questions you need to answer.”
A long, drawn-out sigh from across the room turned their heads. Sienna whimpered and shivered.
Teal raced across the room and gripped her hand. “Sienna?”
Sterling stepped out of the way.
Her eyes blinking open, Sienna swallowed and opened her mouth to speak. No sound came. She frowned.
Sterling shrugged and glanced at Teal. “She’ll be fine. She had a hard landing but no serious injury. She’ll mend.”
A rush of relief flooded Teal as he caressed her hand.
“You understand, Sienna? You’ll be all right.”
Sienna stared at Teal as if she had no idea who he was, her puzzled frown etching deeper into her forehead.
Sterling laid his hand on her forehead and whispered under his breath.
Sienna closed her eyes, and her head fell gently to the side. “Let her rest. She’ll tell us what happened when she’s feeling better.”
Teal glared at Sterling. “I want answers—now.”
Ungle’s ragged voice rose like a cracked flute. “And you shall have them.”
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
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