This one was, and was happy, and was currently balled up with her not-sisters and sisters and not-bigs and bigs in the soft place that was warm. It had been time since she was, dozing off and waking up in that hazy border between living and sleeping, where time has no real meaning. Big had fought other Bigs, and some had won and some had lost and it really didn’t matter; everything was fine and it smelled like many mothers and many fathers, and so this one was happy.
There was a tremor, a nerve firing unbidden, and this one’s leg kicked. It didn’t have far to go, very quickly pressing up against a not-sister, who protested the movement with a whine. The momentum echoed throughout the ball, and was just as quickly dissipated. This one gave a little sigh, and curled tightly again around a Big, for the big was warm and Big and everyone was safe.
This one was… happy wouldn’t do it justice; this one was content in all things, and life was good. There was another tremor that rocked through the ball, and this one paid it no heed as sleep took it again…
…but then there was a shift. This one was not sure what it meant; sometimes one of her not-brothers just wanted to leave, and did. Sometimes a Big did a do, and so the ball changed, but remained. But this shift seemed to be somehow more important; it rippled through the ball, as if the do was important enough for you to do, and so this one felt the ball slowly disintegrate. This one fussed and attempted to halt the progress of the dispersal, rolling over to cling to another not-brother, but the damage seemed to have been done. This one was no longer in the middle of the ball, surrounded by Bigs; this one was now…
With an unhappy sigh, the Dorarizin pup in question cracked open her eyes, huffing at the indignation of having to be awake. She took in the sights and smells, various smaller pups like herself wiggling to full wakeness, a few Bigs rolling around in the soft loam they had collapsed in in frustration, and a few others…
…well they looked battle ready. There were growls, yips and screams of challenge; there was a new Big and so this new challenge must be met!
Why it had to be met at the cost of the cuddleball was beyond understanding, but, this one knew such things had to happen. Wiggling her own self fully awake, she spent a few necessary moments attempting to bite the things that came into her peripheral vision. Eventually, she remembered those were her ears and thusly, no longer a threat.
What did seem to be a threat was the BIG that had suddenly appeared. It was a BIG because it did not make the sounds of a Mother or Father, and it very much was not one of the others who provided snacktime but still needed to be attacked because of reasons. No, this was a BIG who just loomed over the pack, who loomed over the other Bigs, who were defending this one and the others.
The battle lines had been drawn, and blood would be shed.
= = =
Than mo just stared at what was arguably the most adorable thing he’d seen all day. Granted, they were the toddlers of another sapient species and should be treated with respect, but in the privacy of his PPE suit he could let out an adorable and incredulous chuckle at the large furry beans that he somehow awoke by his presence.
Granted, he was standing there for a good 30 minutes just recording everything with his suit’s sensor suite with no issue, but now he had been made and since the jig was up, everyone was now super-aggressive and posturing and falling over each other and sometimes just fighting with each other before realizing he existed and needed to be babbled at.
?”GKBLFGK.?” One of the largest fuzzy beans cried out at him, unsteadily standing on her hind legs and matching his helmeted gaze.
“[You cannot handle my potions, traveler.]”
“?ZZKZKZKZKZKZ.?” The large bean demanded, before it was taken out at the hip by another bean tripping over it’s own feet. Gravity helped Than mo win the battle, and the larger Dorarizin pups seemed to disperse a bit before regrouping, forming to the untrained eye what looked like a phalanx before advancing a few feet again to howl, scream and babble at him once more.
“[I told you. My potions are too strong. You cannot handle my potions, traveler.]”
One of the larger pups – a true bean-shaped bear-dog, if Than mo was being appreciative – began to wiggle it’s entire body back and forth, much like a stickbug. Than mo turned his attention to the toddler, who was absolutely locked on to his leg. With a sigh, Than mo discerned the future, and once the wiggling stopped he moved just a foot to the right.
The assailant sailed through the air, harmlessly landing with an aggressive pamf in the soft loam behind him. Than mo turned for a moment to see the madlad, the absolute unit attack the floor for a few seconds before connecting the dots. Dislodging itself from the soft matted floor and it’s own feet, the pup looked up at Than mo with a hurt, almost betrayed expression.
“[Well. This is going to be an interest-AAH!]” Than mo cried out, his momentary pity replaced with abject fear as something firm and vice-like clamped around his calf. More surprised than hurt, he raised his leg and looked down at a feisty pup who was busy gnawing at the fabric of his suit.
Good news: These were obviously built up to spec, and there was absolutely no indication of tearing, deformation, puncturing or other damage to the suit, external or internal.
Bad news: With how the pup’s eyes grew wide and the vice-like bite began to oscillate between “tight” and “open”, he was apparently an incredibly fun chew toy. The happy gurgling around his leg sealed the deal, and before Than mo could really figure out a culturally-sensitive way to pry off a child from his leg, another impact and vice-bite hit his leg. Then another. And another.
Than mo looked down at the half-dozen pups who were squealing with joy at the new toy, and who kept their grip tight on his body even as their siblings began to crawl over them to explore the new thing in their enclosure.
Than mo laughed as he was consumed by the mound of puppies; he laughed as he was consumed with ultimate power.
= = = = = = = =
Bench was… happy was the wrong word. Content would be more accurate, but it wasn’t a complete contentment. Sure, he had found his grab, and grabbed his grab, and then saved his grab from a not-grab who would have grabbed his grab, but now things were just…
His antennae swayed in the breeze, the feeling of heading in the right direction growing stronger. Bench knew the way home, back to his territory, and he was taking his grab back as was right and proper and should be done for all of time, but…
Bench’s compound eyes scanned the horizon, 300 degrees horizontally and 180 vertically. Above, his kin lazily rode the thermals, searching for their own grabs. Below, some of the more desperate were picking things that were grab-like, but weren’t grabs; things he would never know the names to, but were in fact carved statues, holo-projections, scarecrows (though those were delicious) and wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube-men.
The new balance had been thrown off, and his kin were trying to set it right, but the grabs were gone. His own was… sleeping. Listless. Turning his head slightly he looked at his grab, caressing him with his chitinous arms. There was no tug, no fall order, no climb yell, nothing. Just silence, softness, and the beeping which gave no orders.
Bench continued to fly, beating his wings with purpose. He was back in his territory now; the not-grabs that had followed him from the ground gave up, and all was well…
…all was well.
Bench wouldn’t have the words to know what concern was, though he felt it. It was that off feeling that never went away; it didn’t go away when night fell, it didn’t go away when he landed back at home. And he was home, truly; it was the place of warm and of rest and of safety and of water and food. Four legs splayed against the ground, the rest still holding his grab, turning it over against his body; it was his grab, and he would not be denied it again! He had to keep his grab on him at all times; to stay strapped or his wings would flap!
Somehow, Bench knew that you couldn’t have shit in Detroit, even though he didn’t know what any of those words meant.
Slowly walking into the pitch-black now-abandoned barn, Juan’s limp feet digging ruts into the soft dirt, Bench took stock of what was available to him. Sleep would come later; now he needed to refresh himself and his grab. With a new purpose, and comforted by the safety of home, Bench folded his wings and waddled over to the drinking-trough. It was perfect for Bench; a crescent-shaped divot just above the ground of cool, running water that somehow quenched his thirst more than the wild waters of the before-time. With a happy moan Bench dipped his proboscis-mouth into the Brawndo-stream, the straw-like action of his tongue pumping the refreshing blend of electrolytes into his maw. After a few moments he was sated, and stood there, pondering…something.
Mentally slapping himself in the antennae he reared back, letting go of some (but not all) of the grabholds of his grab’s harness, letting it’s top half dunk into the water to become refreshed too. He waited for a few moments – any second now, his grab would rear up and say the sounds and then he would get the brushies and food and pets and all would be right again.
But something was off. His grab drank deeply, almost too deeply, and although there was a steady stream of bubbles coming up from the bottom of the water-divot, but his grab’s thirst seemed to be endless. With concern, Bench gently rocked his grab; nothing. His grab had a powerful thirst, but this was too much – delicately, after only 15 minutes of abstract thought, Bench pulled his soaking-wet grab out of the drink, holding him close.
What next? Bench looked around; his nightly routine was playing in his mind but it was wrong because things were off and he was alone with his grab and there were no others, not even not-grabs. Bench gently waddled over to the cleaning-pad, standing proudly as he waited for nightly brushies before the sleeping time.
He stared at the brush rack, waiting.
He stared at the brush rack, waiting, gently rolling his grab underneath his body. Maybe his grab just needed to be reminded? With effort Bench reared up again, holding out his grab as an offering to the brushes – but they remained indifferent to the sacrifice.
With a sad “ÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ~” Bench lowered his grab. Maybe he was wrong to grab his grab? He had found it and grabbed it and brought it back home to safety and food and drink and sleep and brushies, but now none of that was here. His home seemed lesser, somehow bigger and colder.
Was Bench… wrong? Was he a “?Noh!Bahdmofh?” – the noise of the newspaper and the sadness and the not-flying?
Bench reeled at the thought. He had done everything right. All was right now.
“ÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ.” Bench said to no one, the darkened barn suddenly illuminating as it does sometimes. There was a noise, and Bench knew that noise – his antennae shooting straight up as he turned.
Bench bowed as he had been taught, as years of training had carved into his brain, as the feelings of the sky told him to, as the MOTHER demanded out of respect. This one was a grab, but was to never be grabbed. This one was, and would be remembered, until the ending of all things, as an equal.
Bench, The Right Honorable Terrorbeast, bowed to the grab before him, her 4’ height somehow towering over the beast, and knew her.
= = = = =
The xenos doctors huddled around the Daycare center’s main console, watching the screens with rapt attention over the metal shoulders of their erstwhile human colleague.
“[I see. And you are all comfortable in those suits?]” Dr. RobotNick said, artificial concern added to his almost monotone speech. The melding of man and machine was still going, and would still continue to progress for many hours hence, but operational ability was more important than silly things like personality or ethics – those things take time, and Dr. RobotNick made an effort of manually putting those feelings forth.
“[Yeah, but holy shit Nick-]”
“[Robot-Nick, please. It seems more… right.]” Dr. RobotNick corrected, standing as tall as he could with his new body. “[And you know this is irrelevant. My operational status is green across the board, and I will be able to perform triage and oversight capabilities for the next month before I begin to degrade. Are you all doing alright in those suits?]”
The other human nurses – looking up at various cameras stationed in their respective daycare centers, gave positive, noncommittal noises.
“[This is still all sorts of fucked, N- Dr. RobotNick.]” Laverne said, sighing as a Jornissian toddler crowed her triumph at being king of the hill before getting too top heavy, wobbling erratically and collapsing on the nurses’ shoulders. “[Though, I do have to admit I didn’t think we’d be a hit with the local populace.]”
“[Yeah. There’s much worse ways this could go-]” Than mo said, a writhing mass of teeth and yips accompanying his exhausted sigh. “[-though at least we’re protected.]”
“[Honestly, that’s top priority right now.]” Dr. Silver interjected, the Jornissian arcing over his smaller companion to view the screens more fully. “[We’ll be outfitting the nurseries with more, temporary comforts, but for the next day or so you’ll have to live in those suits.]”
“[Oh, the joys of the auto-catheter. I can’t wait.]” James sighed, before a sudden cheer rippled through the karnakian fluffballs that had found every possible way to perch on the poor man. The puffs obviously didn’t know what those words meant, but they were words and that was enough reason to cheer.
“[Yes, well. Everyone just needs to get comfortable; we’re in this for the long haul, but we’ll all be ok.]” Dr. RobotNick said, nodding his head by bowing at the waist. It seemed an appropriately human thing to do, and so he did it. “[What we should focus on, of course, i-]”
There was a pip, and at the speed of thought Dr. RobotNick responded to it. Male. Human. 89 years old. Fever, persistent cough, dizziness.
So it begins.
“[We have patients now. Everyone, let’s get out there an-]”
“[Absolutely not!]” Nurse Stringbean said in that try-me-and-find-out tone of voice. “[We’re already functionally down one human; putting you out there on the front lines is only going to increase the chances that someone else takes a hit.]”
“[She’s right, you know.]” Than mo said, a happy Dorarizin gurgle backing up his argument. “[Considering we had a wild animal kidnap one of our patients, I’m not too… keen on opening myself up to that chance as well. Not to mention, well. We are putting ourselves in danger going out there-]”
“[Than mo, we took an Oath-]” Laverne chided, “[-And these suits are tough. I don’t think we’re going to have the same issues that uh, the good Doctor here is.]”
“[Fair point. I have also submitted triage instructions to the attending nurses from Group B, and am currently monitoring their progress.]” Dr. RobotNick stated, matter-of-factly.
“[Wait, that. That makes a lot of sense.]” Dr. Silver murmured, looking at his colleagues. “[What if we just had you all run remote triage? You could oversee multiple teams at once, stepping in when things aren’t going correctly. You can still help, but without putting yourselves on the line.]”
“[Another one.]” Dr. RobotNick said matter-of-factly. “[Shall I work on this one as well until we reach a consensus?]”
“[No. I hate to admit it, but that makes sense.]” James said, shrugging his incredibly puffy shoulders. “[But if we are doing this, is there a way to stop this, what was it T’ciki’briiki?]”
“[Ah. Upsies?]” T’ciki’briiki said nervously – and as one there was a deafening cheer from the puffballs, and Nurse James Wilson was yeeted out of sight.