§ 2020-11-17 22:21:36
[22:32] Athechelt was visibly unhappy to be advancing mainly during daylight hours. Even without an understanding of the language he spoke, it was clear he wasn't overtly complaining about it, though – simply slinking around the larger patches of sunlight that spattered their path.
There wasn't much conviction in his dodging, but he was clearly following instincts honed for years of his life that were hard to shake now.
It was easy to forget that they were being hunted. The landscape was beautiful and wild – tough to move through, with only natural simulacra of paths to walk along, but thanks to their altitude vegetation was just sparse enough as not to slow them down catastrophically. It was a forest, not a jungle.
Their path was taking them in a zig-zag down and back up the slant of the mountain, alternating the rapid advance of 'down' with the arduous climb of 'up'. The kavkema insisted on taking every opportunity to lose their tracks to the wind; if there were stones to clamber along, they preferred it to the damp of the forest.
Once the shadow of the mountain fell across them and sunlight pooled only at the foot of the mountain, almost out of sight but for brief breaks in the vegetation, they were climbing up along a moss-edged cluster of rocks. "Aren't we supposed to be made for climbing?" Greg complained, but in good spirits.
[23:03] "We used to be, but we gave that up to run around in nice flat plains, fools that we are," Samanta replied, hoping that all bitterness in her tone would be understood as directed to the jagged stones and not to her travel companions. "Although, look at it this way: at least we're still very good at balancing on top of rocks." We'd be even better at that if we had an enormous tail, but eh.
She considered calculating to which of the two species this trek was most unfair to, but erased that thought upon realizing that no possible answer would have made her feel better. So she'd rather focus on the green expanse below them.
Despite her field of study, she had ever seen very little landscape that could be truly called natural. All the woods, mountains, and shores she remembered from her youth to the day ESA called were shaped by Man as much as (the rest of) Nature, and even in the deepest unspoilt jungles one couldn't escape contrails and microplastics. She had actually felt a twinge of disappointment at finding out that this new green world was already occupied. Not remotely as large as her delight at meeting fellow sapient beings, or her bewilderment at discovering they were dinosaurs of all things, but still.
But still. Now she was feeling vaguely guilty at still thinking of Nekenalos like a field trip while Athechelt and Edaaj and the others had to spend their lives on it, afraid even of sunlight.
"Speaking of that, Greg —" Any weird dreams, lately? "How do you think the others are faring?"
[23:15] "Either they're more comfortable than we are," he mused, huffing and panting a little as he drew himself further up steadily. "Or— actually, nevermind, they're definitely more comfortable than we are," he snorted. "Unless they're actively being tortured," he tossed in, in an afterthought.
The thought seemed to preoccupy him for a moment – perhaps he wasn't quite seriously considering it as much as playing 'what if' games in his head, or contrasting how he felt about Samanta and his 'torture' by having to keep moving all the damn time.
Then he began to sarcastically comment: "I mean, Jason is probably—" But the sound cut off abruptly as he slipped, his torso smacking down against the face of a boulder he'd been standing on a moment ago, awkwardly flailing arms draping themselves across the same. He barked an indistinct swearword.
For a moment, he lay there, panting, clearly moving and conscious, clearly not in enough pain to howl and holler, but with the wind knocked out of him. Then: "...the hell?" A tremble in his arms betrayed his tension as he tried to look past the edge of the boulder at his legs.
He was at no risk of falling down some kind of cliff, this was a fairly benign slope, but it was all jagged rocks and tiny patches of stubborn vegetation. "Samanta—" he said. "Come help me out for a second here?" He tried to figure out how to ease himself further down and off the rock he was presently clung to without twisting his hip out of its socket.
[23:54] The ground just below him was all gravel and loose stones, and would probably slide down at the slightest provocation. The thorny bushes seemed the only stable part, and they looked even less comfortable than the rocks. Even if Greg weren't hurt, getting back up from there would have been a challenge.
Samanta crouched next to the treacherous boulder, trying to put as much weight as possible on the side of the mountain without pushing both it and Greg right down the slope. "Are you alright? Take my hand, I'm going to pull you up —"
[23:55] Greg didn't seem actually hurt, but the boulder looked like it could take no more weight before definitively breaking loose. Perhaps he could move out of the way and let it fall? Greg grasped her hand, but neither dared to move one more muscle. "Can you... move to your right a bit without falling?" He was heavier than her, so she needed to hold on the rock, and couldn't offer him both hands. Would the kavkema be able to help? Actually...
"Evenatra?" Samanta said, "I don't suppose you can, uh, fix the rocks in place? Keep them from falling, or something like that?"
[00:04] "I think I can get a bit further down with some help," Greg insisted, a slightly strained sound betraying that he was definitely not the happiest, but true to his training, was taking it professional stride. "But my foot's a bit stuck and while I hope I'm wrong, my ankle might be bust," he commented, more apology than complaint. Again he tried to peer past the rock he was wrapped around, perhaps to assess the situation with his foot.
Evenatra, a little ways ahead, had stopped at being addressed and now part padded, part clambered back to her human travel companions. "What happened?" she asked, once she was in customary kavkem whispering range, although she raised her a voice a bit more than the other kavkema tended to by default.
[00:27] An irresponsible lack of tails, Samanta thought. "A stone fell under us. Greg can't move without risking it to fall further. Would you be able to prevent that? Ah, which ankle is that, Greg?" Perhaps if she bent just a bit further forward she could get him to place a foot on firmer ground... depending on which foot that was.
She dearly hoped that whatever was going on with his feet wouldn't stop Greg from walking, given the lifestyle they had apparently taken up. For that matter, how did kavkema deal with hurt feet? They seemed too warm to each other to jump immediately to the mercy-killing option, but how good were they at carrying around one of their own?
That train of though was getting way too morbid. Surely it was just a sprained ankle. They'd both been through worse in training and on the field. It would hurt for a bit and then everything would be fine.
[00:37] Evenatra bobbed her head up, stretching a neck that Samanta hadn't previously consciously realised was as long as it was, reminiscent of a bird. Then she slunk to the side and cautiously eased herself a little further down the slope from about three metres away from Greg.
As she set her feet down, the gravel under them slid a little, giving an alarming impression for a few seconds – but she seemed unconcerned, as though she knew how to balance and manage the treacherous ground. Of course, she had a tail. Maybe that was the whole trick.
Long moments later, she had shuffled over to where Greg was dangling, his right leg caught between a crevice formed by dangerously sharp rocks. Her forepaws set down against the rock he was clinging to, her feet sliding back a few more centimetres before her braced back was held steady.
In a motion not nearly as noble as the kind gesture it embodied, her muzzle bumped up against Greg's butt supportively.
Maybe it wasn't quite what Samanta had hoped for, but the rock could take a bit more weight now – enough, perhaps, for her to help Greg back up, or carefully down as he had requested.
[00:55] Very carefully, extremely carefully, mentally checking the state of tension of every muscle in her chest and limbs as well as she could, Samanta secured herself in the crevice between the boulder and the rocks on its side, where presumably it couldn't roll away from, and gently pulled Greg's arm to the side.
[00:56] "Alright, Greg, I'm going to pull you to the right. Can you place your free foot on the ground there?" If it was his right leg that was stuck, as it seemed, he should have been able to move his left leg rightward. Hopefully she wasn't misjudging the ground from her position.
Evenatra was supporting Greg's weight in a way that looked amazingly effective, for the size and hape of her current body. Samanta could only wonder whether kavkema in general had such strong necks or whether it was just one more of her stupendous super-alien abilities.
As awkward as the whole arrangement was, it seemed to be working. The boulder trembled menacingly, but its center of mass remained firmly on Samanta's side. One last effort...
[01:14] "I think so?" Greg pondered aloud and, in the spirit of experimentation, tried to move while he was being nudged aloft by Evenatra. It wasn't nearly as strong a support as it might look from the outside, but it helped steady him.
With some effort, his left leg first found purchase against the angled rocks near his trapped right leg, then carefully explored downward until it hit the gravel. "Got it," he said, although the sound of scraping pebbles suggested that it wasn't the steadiest purchase he'd ever had. But with Evenatra's support, maybe it was enough.
"Got it, thanks," he repeated, his voice now more obviously strained from whatever pain his trapped leg was in. Slowly he dared to put weight onto his left foot, letting his torso slide down along the edge of the boulder he was clung to awkwardly but steadily.
Evenatra shifted until her muzzle was nestled against the small of his back and her chest crowded against his thighs, her neck no doubt awkwardly folded, giving a soft snort.
"Okay," Greg said, softly. "Okay, so. Let me see if— let me— maybe I can get my foot— back out of—" His attention had slipped down now; he was still holding onto Samanta's hands, but he was barely hanging any weight off them, they seemed more emotional support at this point. "Ouff— yes— I think—" He shuddered a bit from wiggling about cautiously. "Ow, fuck—" he swore, but left it at that expletive, still wrestling with the logistics of getting his foot unstuck.
And then a sudden shift in motion rippled through him, Evenatra straining – and managing – to compensate, and he heaved an exaggerated sigh of relief. "What a fucking mess," he winced. If Samanta dared look down, she would see him wiggling his foot about to test the pain, evidently able to move it in all directions.
If she was particularly perceptive, she might see that the plastic of the suit was not quite aligned with his leg the way it ought to be.
[01:51] "How're you doing now? How's the ankle?" Samanta asked. The rest of the kavkema were now gathered around them, presumably concerned by the precariety of both their guests and their leader. Greg now felt much lighter in her hands, which was a good sign, as it meant he was putting most of his weight in the ground below (and hopefully not too much on Evenatra's neck).
With that load lessened, she dared to bend a little further forward and look down. From her position, it was still hard to see what Greg's lower half was doing, but he seemed to be testing the range of movement he had.
[01:59] "God," Greg hissed past clenched teeth – but whatever pain he was in seemed to be manageable. "Samanta? Hate to say it, but we are going to find out how compatible this biosphere is with me." Gravel crunched and scattered a bit as he moved. Evenatra's strained support of him loosened – he was apparently back on his own two feet.
"Maybe I get the questionable honour of being the first human on Silvanus to die from this world's equivalent of tetanus," he grimaced black-humouredly. He dragged himself a little further up, to where there were solid rocks to sit himself on, did so and then clutched at his leg, which brought it into much better view – the sharp edge of a rock had slashed through his suit near the bottom of his shin and cut into the top layers of his skin at the very least, drawing blood.
At least it wasn't gushing.
[02:28] Oh no. Oh no. Now Samanta really regretted this wasn't a crazy alien planet with blue plants and floating fungi and the works: at least in that one human tissues would have been more or less guaranteed inedible for the local bugs. Instead Nekenalos was right at the horrid right spot were the biosphere was earthlike enough to have dangerous pathogens and novel enough that they would probably have no good defense for them. No human-specific pathogens, certainly, but you don't need species-specific pathogens to get gangrene or septicaemia or necrotizing fasciitis or —
Alright, alright, no panic. She was sure they had some first-aid supplies somewhere in their backpacks. "Damn," she said, after strangling about a dozen stronger words. "Let me get down. We're getting that wound disinfected right now. Seal off the leg, for now". He probably already had, but better safe than sorry. Given the concern of contamination, the ESA suits had been designed with the ability to seal off each limb and the head at the cost of restricted movement, so the astronauts wouldn't get unpurified air in their eyes or lungs.
Of course, if there was some pathogen in Greg's wound, it could already be in his bloodstream. But many microbes are dangerous only in some body compartments, so it was worth doing anyway.
Plan: disinfect wound, create positive pressure in suit to blow out all contaminated air, patch up suit, unseal leg, administer generic antibiotic/antiviral therapy, go out for ice cream. Bonus step: check if the kavkema have some particular folkway to deal with infected wounds, hopefully nothing that relies on the properties of some specific plant or animal. Or if Evenatra's powers can solve our messes once again.
"How does it look? Clean or dirty? Sharp or ragged? Surface or deep?" She dearly, dearly hoped the answer was the former for all three.
§ 2020-11-24 21:50:55
[21:51] Greg made a sound that could either have been an 'uh' or just a strained exhale, fussing with his aching leg. By the looks of things he'd already sealed it off out of some fortunate, educated reflex.
"Mostly clean, I think," he said, between the breaths of a soft pant. He trapped his lower lip between his teeth, grimacing at the wound. "Sharp about two thirds of the way, ragged end... that bit's a bit deeper... bleeding quite readily, but not too badly, I think."
And then, being done with his initial assessment, he twisted in his sit to shrug his supplies off his shoulders — the kavkema had volunteered to carry the worst of it, at least, making the geometries manageable — to get something sterile to press against the wound, to hopefully stop said bleeding.
[22:28] Hm. Could be better, could be worse, Samanta thought. She took off her backpack, slid it down carefully on the lower rocks, and, having lost a dangerous offcenter weight, clambered down herself.
"Stay still, I'm taking a look at it", she said. Greg had sat down onto a flattened rock (well out of the way of the treacherous boulder, just in case that thing had other cleverideas), while Evanatra stood beside him with what the humans could only assume was a mix of impatience and concern. Samanta crouched on the ground and fished the first aid supplies out of the backpack.
She looked closely at the wound. Most of it really was as clean as it gets: fortunately the stone wasn't too crumbly. She unwrapped the sterile tweezers (with a small shiver at how quickly they would cease being sterile) and picked the two or three bits of rock she could find. Never in a thousand years she could have managed actual surgery, but Greg was reacting well enough to this.
"So..." she tilted her head in the general direction of Evenatra, without taking her eyes off her work, "What do— What do kavkema do, when one of them gets hurt like this?" Samanta wasn't going to like the answer, was she.
[22:47] It was hard to interpret Evenatra's look, but the most likely candidate was 'what do you think a society forced to be pre-industrial forever can do?' – there was, perhaps, not an awful lot beyond first aid that could be applied. "Probably you have better disinfectants," she observed. "But — maybe I can help the wound close."
Said, she however seemed to make no effort at coming closer than she already was – out of Samanta's way, but theoretically in touching distance. Of course, if her handling of the Imitorunyema was any indication, visible distance might not be much of an indicator.
"Is— is my blood a problem? For the ecosystem?" Greg was asking in between pauses of quiet tension at the dirt being picked out of his wound.
It wasn't a good question – he should know the answer was 'it's practically guaranteed not to be' and if it was slipping his mind it suggested he was in a worse psychological state than he was letting on. There were definitely streaks of blood on the rock, though. The skin cells that had come off with it were a bigger problem; not the cells themselves, but whatever had taken up residence on them.
Still, the greater damage was likely to Greg. The planet's ecosystem could take even an unlucky hit.
By now, he was holding material ready to press against the wound and, judging by his posture, eager to do so, without wanting to interfere with what Samanta might suggest they do.
[23:00] "Just one second, please. This is going to sting a bit—" Samanta took from the kit a clear packet of disinfectant fluid and, with a handy orientable beak, carefully washed the wound. Greg's leg made an almost unnoticeable twitch, but nothing more. Later (no time for that now) Samanta would shudder at the thought of having to perform those tasks with the level of technology available to their hosts.
[23:01] She dabbed the wound with soft sterile cotton and, as far as she could tell, that was all she could do to clean it. Now, she supposed, was the time to try and close it up; no sense in closing pathogens in.
"Alright," she said to her patient, standing back up, "Would you be OK with that, Greg, if Evenatra tried that?"
[23:22] Greg nodded a bit but focussed his attention on the fabric, easing it between the torn suit and his skin before pressing it against the wound. "Sure," he said across a jittery exhale, not at all sure what he was agreeing to, but convinced it was something worth inwardly bracing for.
As though in nod to symbolism, Evenatra inched a little closer, but still stayed far enough away that it seemed unlikely that she could do much of anything. "I will slow the blood in your leg down – possibly it will make your foot feel strange," she announced. Said, her gaze seemed to slip away, as though her attention was elsewhere entirely.
"Uh," Greg commented wordlessly, hands briefly twitching as though he had nearly followed an urge to pull them back. Then he pressed his lips to a thin line of concentration again and resumed applying pressure to his wound. "Honestly even my leg feels weird," he commented tensely.
[00:00] A part of Samanta had expected something flashier, faster, more astonishing. But perhaps it was a good thing that Evenatra's miracle proceeded slowly. Who knew what could happen had she tried to block completely Greg's bloodflow, or fuse his flesh back together.
[00:01] "Everything alright?" she asked Greg. She bit her lip nervously. How nice would it be, to be back home where that scratch would be bandaged up in a minute and everyone could simply forget about it. How much less nice would it be, to be in the place of the kavkema, who had never had that option in the first place. Even having Evenatra, she imagined, was probably not quite as useful to one as having access to the services of an industrial civilization.
Well, until you need to move a planet around. There was that.
[00:29] Greg's tension was unmistakable, but it didn't seem that much higher than before. He seemed to be taking care to hold very, very still – either there was something about the way what Evenatra was doing was feeling that was convincing him that moving would end perilously, or he otherwise thought it was wise or helpful.
"I'm okay," he said, although it came across as a comment without much conviction. "I'm okay," he repeated, as though convincing himself of it. Careful not to shift his body in the process, he moved his head to look at Samanta. "What happens now?" he asked with subdued fear.
[00:40] Are you asking me?, she thought. "Well... if the blood in your leg is slowing down, it's probably going to feel numb for a while". And possibly cause a clot that will block circulation in your leg altogether, or else travel to your brain and give you a fatal stroke, but given that Evenatra's kind could apparently work with brains carefully enough to manipulate memories and personalities, that was probably not going to happen.
"If there's still any need, we're going to get that wound bandaged, patch up the suit, and purify the air inside. Do you think you'd be able to walk, as it is now?" The wound looked shallow enough, and Samanta doubted that any nerve or muscle had been injured, even not accounting for Evenatra's intervention, but Greg would have to be the final judge on that.
[00:47] 'I don't mean that' flashed plain as day across Greg's face, though he said nothing. In fact, he let only fragments of his deeper concern about what death was was likely to die shine through to the overall surface, and instead said: "Okay. Yeah, I can... I can walk, once the bleeding stops. It just stings, I tested the ankle earlier and it's not damaged."
"It will stop bleeding soon," Evenatra promised. "I will tell you when you can stop pressing." Still eeriely at a distance, as though she were handling him with telekinesis. Of course, even with their limited understanding so far, it was pretty clear that nothing quite so paranormal was happening.
Gradually, as the seconds ticked by, Greg's previous tension made way for a tired misery.
[01:24] Was... that a good sign? She cast a glance at the kavkema on the ledge above them, as if she expected their appearance to shed light on the process' mystery.
Good thing about the ankle, though, because the alternative would have made all their lives that much harder. Perhaps it would be wise to take some weight off his back, just in case, but her backpack was already packed to the brim and she doubted she could carry two for any significant amount of time. Maybe some of the content could be spread throughout all their loads, lightening Greg's a bit?
[01:25] And then of course there was the issue of climbing up the slope again.
[01:35] The kavkema had settled by the edge of the ledge, peering down with various degrees of curiosity, but otherwise contributing little to Greg's aid, perhaps intimidated by that, from their perspective, he was an alien – how does one fix an alien, after all?
Eventually, Evenatra gave the go for them to stop pressing against the wound, revealing that it had clotted up fairly well in a short amount of time. Greg wiggled his toes in his boot, trying to rid himself of a mild case of pins and needles. "Do we just... leave it like that – sealed off, exposed to the air – or do we try to tape up the suit?" he asked Samanta, a weary nervousness in his tone.
[01:53] "It would be... an interesting experiment, but I'd rather not. We still have the emergency tape somewhere in here," she gestured to the uncharted depths of the backpack, "I think we should increase the pressure in the suit," (no danger of wasting air: all the air they were breathing was filtered and sterilized from outside, anyway) "then unseal the leg, let all unfiltered air be blown out, and patch up the tear." Though at some point of that they should also find the time to clean the edges of the tear, lest some infected bit of dirt finds its way into the suit.
Then she crouched down again, this time closer to Greg, and laid a hand on his forearm. "But really, this is going to be fine," she said, letting some warmth creep back into the clinical sharpness of her tone, "You're going to be fine. You're not going to get any infection so quickly. If you've got nothing broken, there'll be nothing to fear. Come on now, we've got you."