Big was big.

Big was big because she was big. This one was not as big as big, or as big as sisters. This one was runt, but it was ok. This one knew when to burrow and when to wiggle and when to cry and Dad was close and Dad was safety. This one let Big be Big because it was small, and it did not want to fight.

Big was big. Big was also leader. This one knew to follow Big and to play with sisters and to burrow and to wiggle and Dad was close and Dad was safety, but Dad was not here.

This meant no safety. So this one went to Big, because Big was big and Big would be safety. Big was angry and Big was fighting and Big was strong and Big attacked-!

. . .

Big was gone. This one was upset, and she and her sisters began to cry.

= = =


“|Gooootcha. Oooh, yes, ferocious, you’re a strong one aren’t you? Yes you are~|” T’ciki’briiki cooed gently, holding the largest and most feisty Dorarizin pup in her hands. She had handled enough pups through the decades to know how to handle the primordial pack mentality:

  (1) Get the biggest one first.

  (2) There is no .

T’ciki’briiki chuckled as the little girl ferociously ‘fought’ against her ministrations, the careworker looking the little pup over for any injuries or anything that would cause harm, accepting the bites and defiant clawing of little hands and teeth. Noting nothing, she turned and put the largest pup down on a warm table, making sure the rest of her currently-screaming family-pack could see. Quickly and with practiced ease, she wrapped the harness around the fussy toddler, securing the torso, then the arms, then the legs. Finished, she tapped a small, soft icon on the harness’ back, the RFID indicator beaming out a confirmation.


“|Aaah, yes, it isn’t the best color for your fur, but that will have to do.|” T’ciki’briiki smiled, lifting up the still-flailing-still-attacking pup and placing her back into the tram she came in with. As she deposited the largest pup, she reached in for the second largest, repeating the process. The pups still in the carriage greeted the largest one with inquisitive yips, bites and body-tackles, their screaming now only coming in intermittently as they remembered, then forgot, then remembered that they were missing someone. By the time the second toddler was suited up and tagged the screaming had started again, and T’ciki’briiki gently placed the second pup in the tram, pulling out the third. By the fourth or fifth time this had happened, most of the pups realized they were going to experience an altogether new sensation that wasn’t going to kill them, so outside of the general “that’s my purse I don’t know you” wiggling that happened whenever they were picked up, the screaming died down.

“|Aaah, and you, little one.|” T’ciki’briiki cooed, pulling out the runt of the litter. Although every so often – especially in larger litters – there would be a runt, it really didn’t carry over into later in life. A few good years of hearty meals and all kids grew up big and strong, but until then there would be runts and stunts and baldies and all sorts of little adorable quirks that T’ciki’briiki could exploit. Case in point, the runt of this litter didn’t even fight and almost leaned back, accepting whatever fate would befall it.

T’ciki’briiki smiled widely and gently rubbed the girl’s head, the soft babyfur between the ears tickling the nub of her finger near her shaved-down claws. “|Aww, you’re the livelyberry of the bunch, aren’t you?|”

“?ABLBL.?” Livelyberry responded, splaying out on the table and giving almost no fuss to being suited up. T’ciki’briiki gently placed the runt in with the rest of the litter and closed the canopy, letting them get used to being together again and being safe again.

Then she wheeled them right into the middle of the playpen.

= = =

Big was big and Big was strong and Big was safe and Big was yelling. This one knew as much, and played with her sisters as they were all safe again and everything smelled like Dad and it was ok, but Big was yelling. This one did not know why, and so was determined to play with Big because sisters were all here and it smelled like Dad and it was safe. Moving forward as rapidly as this one could, she tackled Big in the way toddlers do, which is less a coordinated move and more bumping into and then falling ontop of her sister. It was at this point that this one knew why Big was still yelling.

There were others outside. Non-sisters. And some of them…

…were Big.


Dr. Nicholas Silver continued to cast his gaze over the group of hopefuls that remained before him. As was to be expected, the sudden shock of trauma – bloody, screaming trauma – was not something their class was prepared for, and that was entirely the whole point. As an ER surgeon, you could be spending a couple hours just fucking around with friends, handling some of the more benign cases, and then suddenly there was a tram crash and you’ve got 15 people headed for your doors in the next 5 minutes. You never got to pick and choose what happened, when it happened, or how it happened – only what you were going to do, when you were going to do it and how you were going to save those people who came in through your doors.

Everyone – from Hospital Administrator to the Janitor – needed to be aware of how things worked, and needed to be aware of what they were going to see. You never got a head’s up, so… well.

Why should the trainees?

To this class’ credit, only a third of them immediately left the room. That always piqued Nick’s curiosity; what did they think they were volunteering for? It’s a Hospital for God’s sake, not a coffee shop. Did they sign up expecting, what, that they’d get to play bedside nurse to non-emergency patients only? To physically leave – that was an immediate fail, as it should be, and Nicholas pushed them out of his mind.

The bottom third, the ones that kept their eyes on the screen with rapt attention – those were the ones that worried Nick. Some revulsion was good, especially coming from a civilian life, as they all had, so to show none… It’s one thing to focus, but it’s another thing entirely to almost revel in the spectacle splayed out before them. These were people, after all, not imaginary things, and being too detached from you work… although it helped you to get through the day, it wasn’t good to totally dehumanize your patients. This group would whittle down quite substantially: there would be those who would pass the course, certainly, but a majority would fail just by lack of empathy. Bedside manner was just as important as the ability to not let things get to you. Balance, in everything.

That left the middle third. The middle third… was always the ones that would be the meat of the passing class, but were the hardest to read. They’re civilians, so none are expected to be stone-cold efficient machines… but they’re also expected to keep calm under pressure and do what they’re instructed. Empathy, yes, and in spades, but also a cool head. Some would fall too far on either side of the spectrum and weed themselves out, but those that stuck around would usually be the right stuff to join the team.

If they stuck around. So few… made it.

‘Case in point.’ Thought Dr. Silver, as he saw a Dorarizin male grimacing at his terminal. As far as he could tell the intern didn’t even have his eyes open, but he was at least still sitting down, still …listening to what was going on.

“For everyone who still remains, congratulations. You’ve survived the class’ first great culling.” Dr. Silver said a bit too dramatically, earning him a light chuckle from RN. Laverne Roberts. “Point being, this may mimic one of your typical work days. You might be working in the infant ward, and then pulled into trauma. You might be performing life-saving treatment on a teenager, then helping an elder with a prosthetic fitting. We don’t know what will happen on any given day, and medical technology has only progressed so far – if it were perfect, Hospitals wouldn’t even exist for your our kind, let alone yours. Dr. Solid-” Nick nodded towards the elderly Jornissian Doctor, who gave a little wave, “-will back me up on this, because he’s lived it with Jornissian patients as well. You must be able to handle yourself, to keep your cool, and to follow orders. The class’ first day was meant to reflect that.”

The video ended, and Dr. Silver gave the interns a few moments to compose themselves. There were a few sobs, a few sighs, and a few people staring intently at the lectern. Hm.

= = =

Tipo’s eyes were screwed shut so hard that they ached. The tiny-chomper lost her infant, apparently, and after that they tried to save someone who was involved in a vehicle accident. After that, chemical sickness. After that, burns.

After that, he just shut his eyes.

Ngruzren focused on his breathing as various orders were barked into his ears, the cries of patients filled the spaces, and the sounds of odd machines punctuated any silence that the video would give. He didn’t turn away; well, he couldn’t, really – he needed to be there, to see this, but

But it was way too much.

The sudden silence as the video was cut off didn’t register for the first few moments, and eventually the translated voice of a tiny-chomper started to speak to him about keeping cool, maintaining focus, handling pressure…

Tipo sighed, and opened his eyes, focusing on the lectern at the bottom of the amphitheater. Dr. Tiny-chomper-wiggle-hands was talking as if nothing happened – as if all that pain and suffering wasn’t real, and for a brief moment Ngruzren hoped that was the case; that this was a prank, that it was a trick, and that he was signing up for a normal job. For once.

“[-So I think that’s all we should cover for today. We’d like for you to return here, roughly 30 hours from now, for day two’s lecture. Your homework-]”

Wait. Homework?

“[-will be to review the basic CPR and Triage Handbooks for your respective species. Also, you are to review the first [Olympus Mons] shuttle crash footage, and give us a write-up over what physical trauma you notice come through the doors, and how the tiny-chomper medics responded. That information will be downloaded to your Hospital account within the next hour. No Questions. Good.]” Dr. Tiny-chomper-wiggle-hands gave the group a little bow, and raised the lights, making small talk with the other medical professionals as he did so.

How could… how could they just do that? Act as if nothing had happened? Act as if it was all so normal?! If something like this happened to his pups, Ngruzren would never forgive hi-




This one did not know where Big went, but that was ok; there was another Big and this Big was fighting another Big and that was ok too. So many Bigs meant so many safes and it didn’t smell like Dad but that was ok too. This one was surrounded by a lot of new-sisters and some new-not-sisters, and they were her size and some were larger and some were smaller and it was ok the burrow was warm. A new-sister squealed as this one burrowed past her, the sensation of new-sisters following in her burrow-wake a welcome one.

Potat. Together. Strong.

= = =

One of Ngruzen’s pups gave a little squeal of joy as it sank into the burrow-pit, and T’ciki’briiki laughed. To be so young again, so free! Ah, it was adorable. Idly she scanned the rest of the Dorarizin-den; There were a few larger pups fighting each other – no blood, no pain, so it was no concern – and a few on the mound taking turns knocking each other off into the burrow pit below – where the younger of her charges would grab onto the harness and pull the victim into the soft fabric loam.

T’ciki’briiki smiled and leaned back, looking over her monitors. Her shift was Dorarizin today; her colleagues were handling Jornissian and Karnakian, and then tomorrow they’d rotate, per usual. Hundreds of sensors embedded into… well, everything was pouring data back to her terminal, and everything appeared normal. Well. There was urine in some spots, a few ferocious fights, some broken toys and a bunch of food paste smeared over the walls, so everything was normal for the certain age group that she was monitoring. With a content sigh T’ciki’briiki cupped her mug of hot tea, tipping it up to take a sip.

It was at this point, of course, that the new father and hypochondriac-for-his-kids Ngruzen somehow slammed open the automatic sliding door, his body still skidding to a halt from what was apparently a breakneck sprint to the nursery.

T’ciki’briiki had seen it all, and made a point to gently sip her tea, unflinching. “|Good first day?|”


T’ciki’briiki chuckled and gently placed her mug down on her desk, keying in a few commands. The clear window-screen behind her turned slightly opaque, the pups who were wearing the harnesses of a particular RFID signal started to glow on-screen. “|As you can see, alive and well! Somehow they survived through snack time too. Should I go get-|”

“[NO! No, please, let me just… let me hold them, please. I’ll go an-]”

Now, T’ciki’briiki knew that she shouldn’t let the new father into the playpen. She knew that her supervisors knew, and she knew that doing so would probably mean a write-up.

It would also make for excellent security camera footage.

“|Sure. Your pups are in the orange vests.|” With a few keystrokes, the door slid open, the sounds and smells of a couple dozen toddler Dorarizin flooding the waiting area. Ngruzen made it a good… 10 feet in, and possibly got to one of his own pups, before there was a noticeable shift.

You see, when you are a father picking up your own pups, your own pups react in a certain way. The other pups pick up on that, and any father is a good father when you’ve been abandoned by your parents since before snacktime, and so…

As Ngruzen kneeled to hug his smallest daughter, he was slowly encompassed by pups not his own. By the time he realized what was happening, it was far too late.

With a squealing chorus of joy, Ngruzen was slowly absorbed into the pup-mound as they lept, crawled and burrowed into him from all directions.

T’ciki’briiki would give it about 15 minutes before going into rescue him… the poor dear seemed like he needed the comfort.