One thing that alien media did not do, that human media was almost always guilty of, was showing professionals rushing around everywhere, almost all the time. It’s one of the lazy director’s shortcuts; instead of having actual action happening, show movement as action and misdirect the audience. Works great on humans, not so much on the other species – which was why this particular quirk was broken down by xenos filmographers and general human enthusiasts with a very simple bullet point list, which almost always ended in “If so, run somewhere. For example:

  • Did the tiny-chomper/little-needs-protecting/warmcuddle realize the answer to the problem of the episode?
  • Did the warmcuddle/tiny-chomper/little-needs-protecting realize they’re in (easily avoidable) danger?
  • Did the little-needs-protecting/warmcuddle/tiny-chomper become overwhelmed with joy? What about sorrow?

Or the “cheating” catch-all of:

  • Did the human have a thought?

Because it almost always ends with “If so, run somewhere.” This, of course, rarely actually plays out in real life, so when Antony Markus was made known to the resident human and human-trained medical staff, there was a brief concerned pause and then an almost shared shrug – less out of indifference, and more out of a sense of “well he’s not code blue so he can wait a few minutes”.

“Is he stable?” Dr. Silver asked, adjusting the life-support machines that Juan Esteban was currently hooked up to, increasing his pure O2 levels slightly.

“[Yes, Doctor.]” The Karnakian assistant said, managing the report on her console. “[He was last seen 15 minutes ago, and was told there might be a bit of a wait. He’s in Lobby C.]”

“Whelp. Tipo.” Dr. Silver said, not looking up from his console. “Why don’t you bring him into exam room 7? Than mo and I will finish up with Juan, and then when James gets here he can help with the exam.”

“[You sure you want me to?]” Tipo said, suddenly feeling awkward in full blue protective garb. “[Should I dress down or-]”

“Yes! You’re just going to be bringing him to exam room 7, that’s all.” Dr. Silver said, sighing softly. “You can come back and get a new set of gear if you’d like, but the honest truth is that we’re not going to be doing anything to Mr. Esteban until I do some more research. Than mo was right – we’ve got him stable now, he’s in a medically induced coma, we’ve got some time.”

“You got this.” Than mo said, using his smaller frame to usher the larger nurse away from the bedside. “Besides, any human this far out has to already be working with other sapients, so you’re both probably trained on how to handle each other. Don’t worry, nothing’s going to happen.”

= = =

“So uh. Says you’re… Tipo.” Antony said, salt-and-pepper beard suddenly covered by his arm as he let out a single errant cough. “Least, that’s what your name tag is saying to me.”

The beige waiting room that Ngruzren-of-Arzgr found himself in hummed with the sound of what he was told was fluorescent lighting, even though everything that emitted light in the human side of the hospital was some form of LED. The sound was an odd hum, but apparently somehow soothing to the human ear. Ngruzren-of-Arzgr – Tipo – tapped his name badge, making sure that it was both on and transmitting the proper written language, before responding. “[Oh, yes. That’s correct. Will you please follow me?]”

“Look, doc-”

“[Ah, I’m not a doctor, I’m a human-certified guide and nurse in training through-]”

Antony sighed, holding up an irritated hand. “Look, doc, I don’t really care, and I’m not looking to make this a huge deal. Can you just fix me up with some cough medicine or something and let me on my way? Preferably something that doesn’t knock me out.”

Tipo frowned, his ears drawn to the side, before making an effort to frown slightly in the manner of the tiny-chompers to better broadcast his feelings. “[Well, sir, we can definitely help you out, but we do need to get you examined. We have exam room 7 ready for you-]”

“Doc, I just don’t want to go through the whole shebang, ok? Can you give me a script and let me go-”

“[I’m sorry, Antony, but that’s against protocol. Why are you hesitant to come in and get checked up?]” Tipo questioned, making sure to crouch down lower to make his body language seem as less of a threat. “[I can explain the process to you, if you’d like.]”

“No, it’s not that, it’s just. Look. I haven’t been in a clinic in years; don’t need to go, and I know how you people are with doin checkups and things, and I just need some medicine and I’ll be on my way.” Antony growled, slightly, crossing his arms. “I don’t have the time to sit here and play doctor with you – I’ve got to be somewhere in half an hour, and it’s already been half an hour. Just give me something and let me go-”

“[Sir, that’s against procedure. Just come along with me and-]” Tipo stopped mid-sentence as a flash of anger crossed the humans’ face. In an instant, Tipo remembered his training on how to handle humans, how to disarm the more feisty ones, and what proper steps to take to make sure everyone walked away just fine and dandy.

Tipo also was unfortunately around the unscented human for just a little too long and some wires got crossed.

“[NO BITING YOUR FATHER.]” Ngruzren-of-Arzgr suddenly growled out, deep and low and harsh with a look of a very unhappy parent. Antony, for his part, full-body jumped up and onto the seat he was previously sitting on, squatting on the plastic chair back before loosing his footing and sliding down the front. The sudden movement tickled Tipo’s mind in a very odd way, and so he did what all fathers do when their little gordito of a child is about to fall from a tall place.

Tipo reached out and gently plucked up Antony Markus, 75, himself a father of 9, straight out of the air and cradled him gently but firmly against his chest in a way that brooked no argument – and very little freedom of movement.

“In light of rapidly changing recent events I would like to reconsider my options, and retract my previous statements of opposition in the new spirit of utmost cooperation.” Antony quickly cried out, his voice muffled by hospital gown and Dorarizin fluff, his feet dangling about a foot off the ground. As his world was reduced to a very firm bear hug, he felt movement – that he was being carried to some destination. “I would also like to congratulate you on not skipping leg day. Is that a new conditioner I smell?”

“[Hmmm? OH.]” Ngruzren-of-Arzgr froze, a potent cocktail of personal shame, professional embarrassment and paternal instinct clashing within him for just a second. He gently crouched, hesitatingly releasing the abandoned pu-person.  “[Ah. Sorry, I haven’t… become noseblind… yet. Not enough other… yeah. Are you ok?]”

The two men stared at each other for a slight moment, Antony drawing himself up to make some statement before thinking better of it.

“Damn, Tipo, when I said take him to room 7 I didn’t mean literally.” Than mo grinned, the open door to exam room #7 just a few feet away from the awkward duo. “But you’re already here – Mr. Markus, what’s the hesitation?”

Tipo saw the body language change – from a belligerent patient to someone who seemed almost… contrite. “Look I’m sorry I just, I don’t want to really be brought in-”

“Needles? Or is it the Operation vest?” Than mo said softly. “Because, it doesn’t do the actual operation, it just makes that same noise when it finds something.”

“Ah, bit of both, really. I can’t be put back on Disability with another bout of cancer, so I’d rather not do the full-body checkup y’all have started to push in the past few decades.”

“Firstly,” Than mo said, gently waving in a now-complacent Antony, “We’re not pushing anything. Electives make us bonuses, but this is all paid by UNIMED. Secondly, more data is better. Come on, shoes off and up on the pad.”

Tipo watched as Than mo continued to gently, but firmly push the patient further and further into compliance. What started with just taking off shoes and doing a weigh-in, turned into taking temperature, which eventually turned into the older tiny-chomper shirtless with a plastic-sheathed vest placed onto his chest, the machine whirring softly as it performed various scans.


“Ah hell, doc – if that’s cancer again can we just say we didn’t find it? I’ve got years to get treated for lung cancer, and I’m not smoking too much. Usually. Often.” Antony pleaded, his hand running through his slightly-thinner hair. “At least, the missus doesn’t think so.”

“You’re living dangerously with that, bro.” Than mo grinned, looking over the results. “Tipo, come here – see how the lungs are?”

Ngruzren-of-Arzgr quickly loped over to his senior, reviewing the same internal scan. Two otherwise healthy lungs, with a few small telltale “new” patches of lung matter where cancer had been excised in the past, and no real issues at first glance.

“See the haze? Right there?” Than mo said, pointing to the lower-left corner of the right lung.


“I think that’s our culprit.” Than mo nodded, kicking over a rolling chair to the exam table and sitting down on it unceremoniously.

Antony leaned forward to take the offered tablet, looking over his own lungs in real-time. “So what’s the deal, doc?”

“Well. Good news bad news. Good news, not cancer.”

“Ayyyyy! Shots all around-”

“Bad news.” Than mo said, pointing to the hazy culprit in the lung. “We think that might be what’s irritating you.”

“What, the dust?”

“[Dust?]” Tipo said, tilting his head slightly. “[You’re not talking about normal household dust, are you?]”

“Ah hell, see? This is making a big deal out of nothin’!” Antony said triumphantly, handing the pad back to Than mo. “Some of the soot comes in from the fires, it’s caused a bit of a haze. We’ve been taking to calling it dust, what with it just bein’ a super fine powder. Not cancerous, though, so not a big deal!”

Antony beamed at the two medical professionals, who shared a look with each other before turning to face the patient. “That being said,” Than mo started, tapping a few commands into his medical pad to shut off the diagnostic vest. “I think we should hold you for a few days to-”

“Damnit!” Antony yelled, frustration clear in his voice. “I’m going to tell you what I told him, I am NOT going to be hel-”

“[STOP STEALING FOOD.]” Tipo’s paternal brain added to the conversation, before he embarrassedly looked away. “[I mean. . . Please allow us to keep you under observation. I should go.]”

“Well, not so fast Tipo, let’s just figure something out first: Mr. Markus,” Than mo rested the tablet against his chest, crossing his arms over it, “why are you so hesitant to stay here? Looking at your medical records, you’ve been in for surgery about… 12 times so far, not counting electives. This should be old hat for you.”

“It’s, um.” The patient looked at both men – longer at Tipo, for some reason, before blushing. “I’d rather not say.”

“Sir, we have to enter in something.” Than mo said, lying just slightly. “And you do have medical confidentiality with us.”

“. . . My… wife, um. Does not always like the fact that I am away for so long in my job.” Antony started, before halting. When no one interrupted his pause, he continued. “So I’m out for another week, and I get this message in my, ah, inbox? And it’s just her and she’s saying that ‘there’s gonna be a whole lot of lovin’ in this house in 3 hours, and if you want in on it you better get here now.’” Antony finished, weakly, just barely above a whisper.

“So I got to go.”

That pause lasted a bit longer than the first, and was only broken by the sudden tapping of Than mo’s fingers against his tablet. “I’m giving you some strong antihistamines, some broad-spectrum antibiotics, and some happy pills.” Than mo looked up, giving Antony a light nod. “Go get ‘em, tiger.”

= = = =

“[He wanted to get laid, I can get behind that.]” Than mo said, shrugging as they watched their former patient sprint to the transport lot. “[Besides, it sounds like his wife wants him to finally retire, so that might help his health overall.]”

“{That was still a bad thing to do, tiny-chomper-lookit-him-jump. He should have been kept for observation and treatment.}” Ngruzren-of-Arzgr stated as matter-of-factly as he could, given the circumstances. “{And I guess I should be written up too for my conduct as well.}”

Than mo tapped the “glass”, watching the noonday sun get filtered through a slight gray-green haze that had fallen over their section of the megacity. “[Firstly, yes. You were out of line there for a moment, but considering you’re not even fully certified yet we’ll just call this a ‘learning opportunity’ and help build your bedside manner a bit more. It also doesn’t help that he’s a foreman who’s used to bossing everyone around; having to throw your weight to get …yanno. Everyone else working when you’re a tiny-chomper can be rough, so he could have handled himself better as well.]”

“{I’m sorry.}”

“[Don’t be – that was funny as fuck to watch. Secondly, we don’t have those laws here for humans; there’s not a 5 hour ‘observation’ period we can pull to make sure that he’s ok. He swore he’d get to a doctor after…]” Than mo rolled his hand,”[so even if he doesn’t, his wife will probably send him somewhere. I’m more interested in what he said.]”

“{About what?}” Ngruzren-of-Arzgr said, stepping back from the window to take a seat on a low bench. “{He said a lot of things, some of which were a bit rude.}”

“[I haven’t been on the net in a week, Ngruzren-of-Arzgr, but I didn’t know it was getting this bad.]” Than mo tapped the glass again, a thin patina of dust shaking loose from the outside of the window. “[It’s got a name now. That’s not good.]”

“{Why does it having a name make it bad?}” Ngruzren murmured, licking his emotional wound. “{Doesn’t that help with education?}”

“[Yeah… yeah. I guess it does.]”

“{You seem distracted.}”

The tiny-chomper turned slightly to look at Ngruzren, an inscrutable expression on his face. “[Yeah. I think I need to make a call to the mothership.]”

“{The mother ship?}”

Than mo gave a wan smile. “[Yeah. Central. I think this has gone on long enough – and by this, I mean.]” Than mo tapped the clearer glass purposefully, letting it echo down the calm corridor. “[This. Central needs to know how bad this could be.]”

Ngruzren-of-Arzgr stood up with a light grunt, giving Than mo a slightly-too-firm pat on the back. “{Well, good on you for wrestling with bureaucrats; after all, what’s the worst that could happen?}”