ยง 2023-01-02 23:32:52


[23:45] It wasn't easy to decide what of the past days was a dream and what had actually happened. A dull headache had laced through everything. He hadn't been able to feel his leg for a while, although there were dim recollections of others of his crew claiming minimal necrosis. Maybe one of them had been Samanta.

Only he was pretty sure Samanta hadn't been with him at the time.

The world was still swimming, but he was starting to make sense of it. The deep tiredness that had been keeping him crippled had slipped off his chest, letting him breathe. The breathing was probably not new. His awareness of it was.

The room he was in was full of light, and everything was disporportionately large, if only slightly so. The whites and glint of metal felt like home for a moment, as though someone had managed to bring him back to Earth and patch him up there, but that was, of course, ludicrous. And something was feeling rather strange—

Oh. There was a tube pressing against the corner of his lips and sticking uncomfortably to the side of his esophagus. That would do it. His stomach rumbled with some degree of upset. A burp disturbed his throat.

Nothing was tying him down, at least. He could take the tube out and sit up if he liked, inspect himself, and maybe slowly return to the land of the living. Maybe he could even try to piece together what had happened in the past days and where exactly fate had placed him – and the rest of his crew, for that matter.


[00:30] Very old and very strong instincts were screaming at him to remove the foreign object from his throat, but then the ability to ignore very old and very strong instincts was what space training was for. Whatever the purpose of the tube, it probably was best not to remove it, at least not until he found out exactly what it did and where it went, until the consequences of keeping it there became dire enough..

As his eyesight slowly stabilized, he tried looking down at himself — bad idea, your neck isn't very flexible at the moment — he tried raising his hands. They were somewhat battered, but still usable. They were not hurting much, either, and they moved easily enough that heavy anesthesia was not probably involved. The rest of him was still blurry. The room was unpleasantly bright, and strangely sterile compared to the buildings he'd seen on Nekenalos up to then. The size of the room suggested Nayabaru work; the bed he was lying on seemed tall enough that if Greg sat on the edge he probably wouldn't reach the floor.

This he thought rather dispassionately at first, but his throat constricted around the tube as the facts sunk in. He was in a Nayabaru facility, and almost completely defenseless. Squinting in the ruthless light, and pulling the tube enough to let him turn his head sideways, he took a long look at the room's furnishings.


[00:48] For the moment, he was by all appearances alone. A thin blanket had been draped over him at some point in the past, but the 'bed' he was lying on was a simple aluminium table.

Judging by the collection of tinctures and tools in the cupboards nearby, as well as some furnishings that looked rather strongly as though they were intended to restrain kavkema, he was probably in a veterinarian facility.

It would certainly explain why he was stark naked, why his leg had been neatly bandaged up, and why there was a tube in his throat, by all appearances set up to periodically put a bit of water into him. Judging by his groin area, he hadn't yet been here long enough that the urge to piss had been overwhelming, but his bladder was certainly noting interest in some relief now.

There were a few tiny puncture marks on his left arm and left leg that had previously not been there – likely someone had taken some samples of his blood and possibly given him a solid dose of some antibiotic.

Evidently no one considered him a threat, given that no one was hovering nearby. Someone must have done a decent job at convincing the Nayabaru that he would behave himself if he awoke.

On the other hand, it wasn't altogether clear if he could just... leave the room if he so pleased. It was easy to see out – for some god-forsaken reason this place had no privacy whatsoever, every one of its walls transparent – but the doors were made for Nayabaru.

All things considered, he felt better than he had in— how long had it been, exactly? It felt like he'd hurt himself only yesterday, maybe the day before, but if he tried to track the number of nights in his head, there were enough that he wasn't sure of the right number. That suggested something closer to a week. No wonder his brain was slush.


[01:44] In his state, it was probably better not to move around too much, let alone try to flee. Having made sure that the tube was not connected to anything especially delicate — inside or outside — he slowly slid it out. It was a very unpleasant activity, and it made him very grateful that his stomach was almost certainly empty, but eventually it succeeded. He tied it into a knot to make sure the water wouldn't spill out, though there seemed to be a mechanism to make sure it only left at certain times.

He sat up on the bed and wrapped the blanket around himself as a makeshift coat. There wasn't much point in modesty when nobody likely to be present was even a mammal, but the table was uncomfortably cold where it hadn't absorbed his own body heat, and the room was too vast to have warmed up much.

He carefully slid down the bed. In the shape of the furniture he could almost see the hulking form of a Nayabaru bent over him like a veterinarian studying a sick dog; in a way, being lower down on the floor would be a relief. (Smooth fired tiles, easy to wash, with embedded drains.) It wasn't too tall to climb, and should he be too weak he could stack some boxes to come back. As soon as he was vertical again, gravity reasserted itself in his bladder. Just being the patient of a veterinarian was no reason to behave like a beast: an empty metal bin in a corner, probably meant for medical waste, served the purpose just fine.

All the most pressing necessities out of the way, he studied the hallways outside. Nobody he could see or even hear, unless this was some sort of devilish one-way glass that only showed the appearance of empty halls. Well, someone clearly cared enough to keep him alive, if nothing else; he knocked on the transparent wall, and called out.


[02:08] Unsurprisingly, nothing happened at first – if the sound carried, it reached someone who was far enough away that they couldn't immediately appear. If the sound hadn't carried, he would just have to wait until someone thought to check on him.

There was no window anywhere nearby, offering no indication what time of day it was. The Nayabaru, if he recalled correctly, were commonly diurnal, so it might easily be night for them right now. Alternatively, he remembered travelling with the kavkema, and it was quite possible the Nayabaru thought he shared their biorhythm.

Before he could think too much about what the likely state of affairs was, there was a motion outside. One of the Nayabaru – he couldn't tell them apart, even having gathered by now that there was a lot of individualisation in their tattoos – had emerged from a corridor and was looking toward him.

And then it disappeared again.

Bummer. But the more awake he was, the more it became clear that he was quite fine indeed, a bit of grogginess from the lack of exercise notwithstanding. His stomach seemed to want some nourishment, too – when was the last time he'd had solid food? Someone must have kept him fed at least partially; he'd lost a bit of weight by first impression, but wasn't feeling fundamentally famished.

A few minutes into his exploration, the same – or perhaps another – Nayabaru appeared once more outside of the infirmary, with a kavkem in tow.

A kavkem, in a Nayabaru facility. To his sluggishly coalescing memories, it made both no sense, and was completely expected. Someone had said something about this. What was it?

The giant opened the door for his unlikely feathered companion. "Greg!" the kavkem piped, for a brief moment making him wonder if he should recognise this particular creature – differentiating between kavkema was also not his strength, but he was pretty sure he hadn't travelled with this one. Then it continued: "You look much better than when they brought you in."

Oh. Valcen. He had technically travelled with him before. They'd even spoken. He looked much smaller than he'd last appeared to Greg, but it was definitely the same person. It was, however, interesting that the English-speaking kavkem hadn't be a crazy fever-dream.


[03:14] Greg tightened the blanket around himself — somehow being in front of an English-speaker made him feel a lot more self-aware — and slightly bowed, partly as greeting but mostly to get closer to Valcen's height. A surprising turn of affairs, in that cavernous place.

More surprising still is that Valcen had entered with... Greg couldn't call it authority, as the Nayabaru didn't really resemble a bodyguard let alone a servant of some kind, but at least with more confidence than he'd expect to see in a captive from a species perpetually on the run.

He was likely to be Greg's only link to the larger universe, and a more effective one than he'd hoped just a few minutes before. Greg briefly tried to articulate his questions well, to come up with something so courteous and clever that it would immediately throw light on everything. Instead, between excitement and fatigue, he started rather ineptly. "... Valcen, is that it?" he asked, "What has happened? What is this place? Where are the other humans?"


[03:25] "Sleeping," Valcen answered the last question first. "Unsurprisingly, your circadian rhythm is completely messed up. This place's perpetual simulated daylist probably won't help." He gestured to the strips of light in the infirmary's ceiling as a stand-in for the larger facility as a whole.

"We brought you to Katal, since it was the safest way to ensure you'd get patched up. Do you remember the conversation we had about it? About four days ago."

Here Valcen briefly paused, gesturing for Greg to be patient, and – by appearances – translated for the Nayabaru that had accompanied him.