Howling in pain, The Kraythonian staggered into the surgery clutching upper right arm with upper and lower left hands. Dr Carl Peters slipped on the translator headset. His speech needed to be precise, clear, unrushed. Miss-translation could have unfortunate consequences.
"Hello sir. What appears to be the problem?"
A wall-mounted speaker bellowed grunts and gargles, an interpretation of Dr Peter's words in Kraythonian tongue. The Kraythonian barked and growed a response, distain seeping through pained expression.
A formal, English male voice politely translated in Dr Peters' earpiece.
"Do you have a problem with your eyesight? I'd have thought it obvious that my arm is causing pain."
Kraythonians were known for their forthrightness, not their cheery disposition. They frowned upon rhetorical questions and rarely treated themselves to mirth and merriment, believing levity had no tangible place in the universe. This attitude was matched by their physical appearance, lizard like features and deep red eyes not conducive to warm expression.
Carl took no offence and maintained composure. Differing philosophies and attitudes were all part of working in an inter species environment.
"Of course sir. Please sit on the bed and I'll take a look."
The softness of Carl's tone translated into harsh, even threatening noises from the wall-mounted speaker, totally at odds with the doctor's attempted bedside manner. The Kraythonian language didn't seem to do subtleties. Or maybe they found aggressive growls soothing.
The patient spewed further grunts and gargles as he complied with the doctor's request.
"May I enquire if you're the only doctor on duty today?"
The question didn't surprise Carl. "Yes sir, but I assure you I'm fully trained as regards your physiology."
Another horrific din emanated from the speakers.
Carl had been a medial practitioner on Well's mining facility for several weeks. Well's specialized in mining asteroid belts and was one on the oldest star vessels of it's kind. Much of its equipment was outdated, hence a fairly high accident rate though thankfully nothing serious since his arrival.
The facility was one of the first to introduce an interspecies work environment. Now they were commonplace and believed to improve intergalactic relations. It'd been Carl's father who'd persuaded him to work in such an environment. "See the universe," He'd said. "Meet new and interesting species. Experience cultures from other solar systems." Much of what Carl had learnt thus far was either confusing, scary or down right frustrating.
It didn't help that humans, particularly young, newly arrived humans, weren't well looked upon by the Kraythonian contingent on the mine. And with them making up the majority of those on the station, particularly in positions of authority, this occasionally made matters awkward for the young doctor.
The Kraythonian's viewed Carl, as best any Earth language could translate, as a 'Lower-form'. To have any chance of ascending the social ladder you needed a nomination from a 'Higher-form', which basically meant anyone of a higher social standing. Which basically meant anyone else on the base. Carl had thought being a doctor would put him in better stead, but the Kraythonian's saw the young, fresh faced human rather than his profession.
Curse the Kraythonian's for their beliefs and traditions!
"So, what's your name," asked the doctor?
Names didn't translate, so the earpiece simply repeated the Kraythonian's roar in softer tones. It sounded a little like 'Oomagen'.
"Okay Oomagen, let's see that injury."
The Kraythonian reluctantly allowed Carl to examine the wound. It was a small gash, bleeding not severe but the surrounding inflammation no doubt caused agony. Carl thanked the fact that, whatever the species blood remained blood. It's properties, it's colour and purpose remained the same with only slight deviations. Anatomy varied but blood remained blood.
"So tell me what happened."
Oomagen worked in mineral extraction as an asteroid cutter. A lack of concentration saw him fire a laser cutter while it pointed in the wrong direction. Luckily the cutter had only grazed the arm. Any more and the limb would no longer be there.
Carl delicately prodded the inflammation. "Does this hurt?"
Oomagen pulled away with a howl. No translation needed.
The doctor apologized. "First I have to stop the bleeding."
Carl attempted to place a sterile pad on the wound only for Oomagen to again withdraw, upper and lower left hands protecting the injured limb, lower right grabbing the doctor's wrist. Any contact caused pain. An anaesthetic was needed.
First Dr Peters needed to know a little about Oomagen's medical history. He fetched his handheld scanner from a nearby desk. "Have you been in mineral extraction long?"
The Kraythonian claimed to have been in the post for twelve years. Carl thought it unusual that an employee so experienced would make such an error with a laser cutter, especially considering the species' reputation for methodical professionalism.
Carl zapped the bar code on Oomagen's ID badge with the handheld. The employee had no history of allergies and was not currently on any medication. This aided Dr Peters in selecting an aesthetic.
Haloprodian D6. A toxin that ignited pleasure sensors in the brain, thus giving the patient a serine, benign feeling and shutting out pain receptors from elsewhere in the body. Get the dosage right and the Kraythoian would let Carl do whatever he wanted with the injured arm. He loaded a syringe.
The doctor asked the usual formal questions before administering. "Have you been feeling ill or faint recently, or consumed anything intoxicating in large quantities?" He fished for an explanation for the Kraythonian's uncharacteristic mishap.
Oomagen grew impatient.
"No. Are you going to help me or will the silly questions persist?"
Satisfied he had the correct dosage, Carl reassured his patient. "Of course sir. First a little something to take away the pain."
The Haloprodian D6 was injected into Oomagen's upper right arm. It would take only several seconds for the drug to tale effect.
The Kraythonian remained sceptical.
"Are you sure there isn't another doctor around who can..."
Oomagen's growling ceased. Mouth open, Carl's patient suddenly swayed, red of his eyes going dull as they stared into space.
Carl eased the Kraythonian into a reclining position on the bed. "Now just relax sir, we'll have that wound sorted out in no time."
Oomagen responded, his growl now a purr. The purr translated as "Thank you."
Carl set to work dressing the wound, Oomagen content to lie and watch, mesmerised by the doctor's actions.
The doctor felt he deserved a drink for the way he'd maintained professionalism in the face of such an abrasive patient. Unfortunately such reward would have to be consumed in the privacy of his own cramped quarters. 'Lower-forms' weren't allowed in the mine's bar, or 'Meeting place' as the Kraythonians imaginatively referred to it. That's where they gathered for their rare moments of frivolity. Kraythonians didn't entirely disapprove of fun, just so long as they indulged in the right location at an appropriate time. 'The Meeting Place' provided that location. A place to enjoy brief moments of frivolity before returning to the serious business of real life.
"Sorry for being nasty earlier. I like humans really you know."
The comment surprised and amused the doctor. "Why thank you very much."
The Kraythonian's lower right hand started to gently stroke Carl's leg.
"To be honest I think you're all really cute."
Now Doctor Peters felt uncomfortable. It was always possible that verbal exchanges could be misinterpreted, physical contact less so. Was this just something harmless Kraythonians did to those who helped them, maybe part of the culture? Or were there more amorous intentions afoot? Carl removed Oomagen's hand from its questionable activity and turned to move away.
"Well that's very nice of you to say so but..."
Oomagen pulled Carl back, sat up and embraced him.
"Oh give me a hug."
Carl didn't feel so much hugged as crushed, the Kraytonian still incredibly strong despite the sedative. Eventually he managed to free himself and gently recline the patient back onto the bed. "Thank you very much but you must rest for a few moments. I just need to run a test."
"Is it okay if I sing?"
An unusual request but Carl saw no harm in the activity. "Of course, just don't be too loud."
As the doctor fetched a blood test kit Oomagen broke into an elongated, tuneful growl and purr, the translator spinning a tale of undying love in broken English. Oomagen's behaviour could simply be down to the Haloprodian D6 but Carl had never seen such an extreme reaction. Also, the administered dose should have sapped the patient of strength, something that on this occasion had most definitely not been the case. Something was wrong!
"I just need a sample. You'll feel a little prick." For a second Carl feared his second statement would be translated as something embarrassingly different.
Oomagen briefly broke from singing.
"Do what you must my friend."
Dr Peters inserted the needle and took the sample.
Singing resumed, the translator recalling the location at which first true love had been experienced.
Carl placed the blood into a handheld monitor and waited for the results. When they arrived the doctor felt his jaw drop.
Oomagen was pregnant!
* * *
Dr Carl Peters drank his ale; laughing with friends in a bar he wasn't welcome in several weeks earlier. Oomagen was among them, naturally careful of substances consumed in current condition.
Carl had been right. Oomagen was indeed pregnant. Kraythonian tradition dictated that a person who discovers the condition and breaks the happy news is owed a debt by the expecting. Once the effects of the Haloprodian D6 had worn off an overjoyed Oomagen was only too happy to grant any wish within her power. Carl asked to be nominated to step up the social ladder. Oomagen gladly complied.
Elevation to a 'Higher-form' gave other employees reason to be more open to socialising with the doctor and friendships were quickly established. Respect was even growing; Carl now viewed not as an inferior but as a Doctor. A noble professional.
Someone in authority, another of his new friends, even saw to it that the good doctor received a pay rise and was moved to better, more spacious accommodation.
My, how Carl loved Kraythonian tradition.
Bio: Mark Doxey is a young at heart dreamer who loves telling stories