“And why?” Second Sister asked, “do you need a large canister of category four emergency membrane sealant transported to the secondary airlock?”
“There is a medical emergency that requires it,” Sixteenth Cousin said as she tossed a few of the harshest of the antiseptic wipes into her carry case.
Second Sister really tried to keep her frill from flattening to her neck but she was afraid that she failed rather spectacularly from the way that the Sixteenth Cousin’s antenna curled into defensive little buds. Second Sister took stock of the situation and decided to hazard an informed guess.
“Is this for a human?” she asked.
Sixteenth Cousin relaxed a bit and let her head tilt in confirmation. Second Sister considered her options. She was new on this base and had not yet established her place properly. While she technically outranked the Sixteenth Cousin on ever level, the other had been on this particular base, working with these particular humans for much longer than Second Sister had even been certified as a xenomedic. It would be bad form both socially and practically to openly contradict her. There was also the matter of the fact of Sixteenth Cousin’s hive being a massive power in the next system over from Second Sister’s hive. It would not be good to offend them, so she brought her frill under control and politely asked to accompany Sixteenth Cousin to observe.
“Certainly,” Sixteenth Cousin said as she hefted the medical bag with impressive strengths and started walking towards the airlock.
She was tall for a cousin in the teens and her alert look suggested a higher than usual level of intelligence, perhaps a Second Daughter of a Third Mother. It was possible given how large her home hive was reported to be. Rumor had it they would be splitting the hive to form a colony soon.
“It will be good for you to begin desensitizing yourself to human membrane cracks as soon as possible.” Sixteenth Sister said as they moved down the corridor.
“The human has a cracked membrane?” Second Sister asked, ashamed at the obvious horror that tainted the set of her antenna.
“Remember,” Sixteenth Cousin said with a cautioning gesture, “it is hardly a serious matter for them. They have a triple layer member, with multiple shielding layers. I suspect no serious internal fluid leakage yet. In fact I fully expect to prevent that through quick action.”
“Was the human assaulted by the local fauna?” Second Sister asked.
“No,” Sixteenth Cousin said with a brisk click of annoyance as the had to stop to maneuver around a cuddle of Undulates in the middle of the hallway. “He simply forgot to apply the protective biochemical over-layer before leaving for his mission and the atmospheric exposure caused the damage.”
“I thought,” Second Sister said as she gingerly pulled her hind-leg over the last Undulate, “That this planet was not rated as dangerous for human membranes.”
“Not their exoderm, no,” Sixteenth Cousin confirmed. “The damage is on his endoderm.”
Second Sister stopped dead and her frill paled with horrified surprise.
“How was he allowed to go out with exposed endoderm?” she demanded when Sixteenth Cousin stopped to look back at her expectantly.
Sixteenth Cousin clicked in surprise.
“Weren’t you given the latest training?” she asked. “Humans have several square centimeters of chronically exposed endoderm. You can see the color range change on the fleshy covering over their mandibles.”
Second Sister stared at her in astonishment for several moments until Sixteenth Cousin twitched her antenna in a reminder that they needed to move on. Second Sister followed her in quiet thought.
“So this damage that they take,” she finally said. “It is common?”
“It has a nearly specific name,” Sixteenth Cousin said. “They call it chapped lips. It is one of those mild problems that sometimes become larger problems which it is often the duty of older sisters and cousins to mind in hatchlings as they begin to explore their gardens.”
Second Sister tried to hide her shudder of sympathetic horror for any elder sister who had to encounter a garden full of cracked membranes, but Sixteenths Cousin clearly saw her discomfort and clicked her mandibles in sympathy.
“Yes, it is a rather nasty thought,” she said, “but you’ll get used to it. I did.”
The reached the airlock and Second Sister could see the human lounging against the wall to rest his massive bipedal frame. Now that she was looking for it she noted the clearly different coloration lines around his solid mandibles. Both the exoderm and the endoderm were radiating in the far infrared, clearly indicating freshly healing damage. Fortunately she could not see the human’s iridescent blood so the damage was mild as Sixteenth Cousin had said. However, as she watched the human reached idly up and grasped a thin, loose flap of his membrane and yanked it off of the healthy membrane underneath. The membrane flared anew at the abuse and Second Sister gave a startled click.
“They are less responsive to medical orders if you show weakness,” Sixteenth Cousin said.
Second Sister took a good long look at Sixteenth Cousin and the reason for the other’s strict control was not in fact personal disrespect. Second Sister tried to calcify her nerves and gestured to the container of balm.
“Shall we proceed?” she asked in the firmest tone she could muster.
“That is our chosen profession,” Sixteenth replied with a rather grim set to her antennas.
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Hey! The books are moving well on Amazon and now have 56 reviews and ratings! If you bought the book and enjoyed it, it would really help me out if you leave a quick star rating on Amazon. A review would be great but just stars would be a huge boost *****!
QUICK NOTE: RE: everyone who asked. The book is avaliable in Amazon regions US-UK-DE-FR-ES-IT-NL-JP-BR-CA-MX-AU-IN. HOWEVER The above link only takes you to the US Amazon site. The one indicated by the .com ending. If it says "not avaliable in your country" that just means that you need to click over to your Amazon region.
Of course if you want a signed first edition you can email me at the email on my website and I can ship you a signed Author copy of the first edition for the same price as the crowdfunding campaign $35 domestic and $50 overseas. I'll do that until I run out of extra books.