St’ckckc darted between the medicine cabinet, the archaic synthesizer that was grumbling out error vibrations as it tried to output something useful, and the display that listed what painkillers were acceptable for use in large omnivorous mammals. She roundly cursed whatever shortsighted fool had not sent the medical updates with the human engineer who currently lay sprawled over a pile of packing crates and thermal insulation layers, in what he had assured her in his lucid moments, was ‘jus’ tha’ righ’ shape for a busted leg.
The synthesizer gave a pathetic whine as it gave up on its current assignment and spat out an odd yellow powder. St’ckck darted over and dedicated three appendages to resetting the tower cursed thing to try again. She had cleaned out the intake and output spinners, and entered the chemical formula for...it was a plant product she thought, some sort of giant, broad petteled flour, an extract from the seed. Not the best painkiller mentioned in the human’s personal data logs, but the only one of those few options that their frayed old machine could hope to produce on its best day.
“St’ckckc?” a voice called with hesitant clicks.
St’ckckc spun around her center of mass and faced her assistant, a fluffy hatchling of a graduate student the University had sent her. He instantly cringed, dropping his abdomen to the floor, pulling his legs in, and even, weaver help him, reaching up to pat the sensory hairs over his eyes down. It occurred to St’ckckc how she must look, her remaining hairs puffed out in every direction, her abdomen raised higher than her first joints, her chelicerae spread as if she was going to bite his head off as the human had said, and despite her own near panic she found herself chuckling with amusement at the horrified guilt in that fuzzy little face.
“You haven’t done anything wrong,” she reassured him, addressing what would certainly have been her first fear if a superior had greeted her like that in her own fluffy days. “I am just cracking my joints trying to get miracles out of our old junk.”
Pt’spt slowly stood up, holding his legs in a very uneasy agreement.
“What did you want to speak to me about?” St’ckckc asked with a sigh.
“Human Friend Hàoyǔ,” Pt’spt began, still poised a bit uneasily close to a submissive crouch, “I think he is beginning to show, either a symptom of his illness, or perhaps a side effect of the attempted medication.”
St’ckckc gave a huff of exasperation and skittered towards the old storage hanger they had repurposed for the human’s use.
“I was preparing his lunch,” Pt’spt expanded as they went. “I was brewing him a nice broth and you know how your caudal most leg just kinds of comes up and circles around when your gripping legs are stirring something of that volume?”
“No,” St’ckckc stated with a dry click.
“Well,” Pt’spt said and she could see him recalibrating his approach. “Humans Friend Hàoyǔ wasn’t really watching me at first, he has not been very focused since we medicated him with that local plant.”
Both of them winced uneasily and tried not to think about ethics committees waiting for them back at the University.
“Well,” Pt’spt went on, “at some point I noticed that he had focused.”
St’ckckc clicked with relief.
“Good, I was concerned about his lack of interaction,” she replied.
“But,” Pt’spt quickly protested, “he was interacting with my leg.”
St’ckckc stopped and rotated her body to put him fully in her primary cone of vision.
“With your leg…” she said.
They stared at each other in confusion long past the point of politeness before St’ckckc simply turned and entered the human’s room. Human Friend Hàoyǔ on his improvised bed filled nearly a quarter of the space. His bifocal eyes were obviously unfocused and the stiffness of his free limbs were more of an indication of his suffering than the restraints and bandages on his restrained limbs. They watched their injured friend in silence for several moments before the random flicking of his eyes landed on them and he forced his face into a smile. St’ckckc repressed a shudder. She had never been particularly fond of the human gesture, but it turned out that a fake smile, a smile forced through pain was far, far more disturbing than a genuine smile, though she could not articulate how one twisting of the fleshy mammalian face was so different from another.
“Hey,” the human slurred out in barely understandable words, and by the web there was pain in his very voice, “got news from tha sheep?”
“The Shatar medical transport is arriving in the expected…” St’ckckc cut herself off as the human’s focus, so clear and easy to determine thanks to those concentric circles visible on his eyes, shifted from her face to her paw.
The human raised one finger and waved it at her in a greeting. Uncertain what to do, she simply replied with a hesitant wave. Human Friend Hàoyǔ giggled, winced as the sound caused his leg pain, and waved his finger again. Once more St’ckckc returned the gesture, a bit wider this time to track what he was actually focusing on.
“Human Friend Hàoyǔ,” she said in the gentlest tone she could manage. “Can you tell me why you are so interested in my leg?”
The human drew in a large breath and his face spread into a true smile.
“Paws,” he breathed, “you’se, you guys, little spider guys, ya’ got cute widdle paws.”
He giggled again, and grimaced again as the movement sent pain through the shattered remains of his endoskeleton. St’ckckc shot a quick glance at the screen that still showed that the rate of the blood pooling outside of his circulatory system was stable. Behind her Pt’spt raised a paw and slowly waved it back and forth. This quite successfully distracted Human Friend Hàoyǔ from his pain and his eyes followed the movement with intense focus.
“Cute. Widdle. Pawsies,” the human breathed out.
“I suspect,” St’ckckc finally said, “as his vitals have not noticeably changed, that this is more likely to be a result of the plant we treated him with than any change in his state of damage.”
On the improvised bed below them the smiling human was following Pt’spt’s movements with both eyes and two sets of fingers.
“I wonder if the Earth based plant that matches its profile does this to humans?” Pt’spt asked, his fur fluffing with interest now that it was clear his friend was in less pain.
The youngster was clearly trying to see how far he could get the human to mimic his movements now. The human giggle-winced again, and whispered.
“How come I never noticed the pawsies before?”
“Why would a human deliberately put themselves in this state if they were not injured?” St’ckckc asked. “Please don’t incite him to move too far. I’m going to try and extract a proper pain killer from the synthesizer.
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