I awoke in a distressingly soft bed in what appeared to be a hospital. My head did not hurt at all, and indeed seemed to be its normal shape again. I carefully stretched all my muscles then pushed the bedclothes aside and stood. The chunk of muscle missing from my calf had been replaced, and a couple of scars I had gotten in falling out of a tree and cutting my arm open were gone. None of my scars remained when I checked them. I felt marvellously healthy, and ready to take on all of the Centauri Republic by myself.
There were clothes that looked like mine hanging by the door. Only they weren't mine, but clever copies in materials that didn't quite feel right. Still, it was better to wear not-my clothes rather than the hospital gown I had awoken in.
Once I was dressed, I opened the door and looked out into a sitting area. Russell was seated there, looking out a window. He turned around and seemed genuinely pleased to see me (but it is so hard to tell with Humans).
"Captain! You are looking so much better now!"
"I feel very well. Tell me, how long have they been treating me? I remember that I was hit by something, then the Markab arrived."
"Yes, they put you into stasis, then brought you back here for treatment. They put you in these amazing tanks full of gacky stuff and hooked you up to a few things, then left you to heal. They put my leg under this device that accelerated the healing. It took several hours to get back here, then you've been in the tank for four days, along with Djikiden and Nar'Bon. The doctors say that they should be up and about shortly."
"What about my ship?"
"The Markab say that they are towing it back - it should have nearly arrived by now, and they will repair it. We're some form of heroes now it seems."
The other two members of my crew then made an appearance. Nar'Bon looked as if he had had years taken off him - he had lost the scars from fighting for so many years and also lost some of the wrinkles etched in his face. The Pak'ma'ra also appeared healthy, though I am still not sure exactly what a healthy Pak'ma'ra looks like. Our Pak'ma'ra looked a more tan colour than most.
Russell filled us in some of what we had missed and repeated what he had told me. Then he said that we were to be honoured guests in the house of Orini, whatever or where ever that happened to be.
We were escorted to a ground car, where we were met by a Markab who identified himself as Orini. He told us that we were honoured guests of the Markab for we had helped them remove a raider base that had been quite some trouble to them. Later there would be a reception for us. In the meantime we were to have the run of his humble abode. If we wished for anything, we had but to ask.
Orini's house was boring. The Pak'ma'ra and Russell were happy, though, burrowing through the computer system. Russell had been given a key that could access the Markab system and automatically translate information to Earther. Given such access, the Pak'ma'ra spent much of his time researching Markab society and Russell explored the intricacies of the Markab web.
That was all very well for them. Nar'Bon and I had little to do but wander the house.
In exploring Orini's house I found some very interesting pieces of equipment in the rear gardens. One thing formed a gantry-like apparatus, possibly used for training, although it was quite low to the ground - it stood little higher than I. I climbed up it and ran across the top bars. Another had a steep ladder up one side and a sheet of polymer with rails leading to the ground at a less steep angle. I ran up the polymer, then turned around at the top and slid back down - quite amusing actually. I laughed loudly and did it again. Then I climbed the ladder and slid down on my front. I called Nar'Bon outside and he watched my antics with some bemusement.
I encouraged Nar'Bon to try the sliding equipment. He eventually slid down, but did not land well at the bottom - indeed, he did not land on his feet at all, further increasing my amusement. I moved on to the next bit of equipment - a polymer board balanced on a pivot point. I walked up it and stood in the middle, trying to distribute my weight such that neither end touched the ground or tilted downward. Obviously it was something designed to improve balance.
Then I had another thought. "Nar'Bon, hop on the end of this thing."
He pulled it down and sat gingerly on the end. I straddled the board and began wriggling backwards. When I was some distance from the end, Nar'Bon's end lifted up from the ground. As I wriggled back further, my end dropped to the ground suddenly. I had lifted my legs out from under the board as it rammed the ground. Nar'Bon nearly flew off his seat, and I laughed more. I hadn't had so much fun in a long time. I pushed off with my legs - could I propel the board enough to counteract my weight? It seemed so because Nar'Bon fell from the skies like a rock. Still, as he approached the ground, his downwards velocity slowed and stalled, and I began to drop back to the ground. I bounced us up and down for a while, then quickly jumped off.
Nar'Bon hadn't got the hang of the pivot board and slammed into the ground. It must have caused him some discomfort because he grimaced and stood up very carefully, rubbing his backside for the second time in a few minutes. I was mirthful - I was having so much fun on this bizarre conditioning equipment. It was just so very good to stretch my muscles. Nar'Bon retreated inside.
The last piece of equipment reminded me of the knotted rope at Home. It had two chains and a board joining the chains a little below knee height. I stood on it and swung my body. It responded by gently rocking. The board was wide enough for me to sit on, so I tried that. If I pushed a little with my legs, then it rocked more.
I was distracted from my efforts by a small voice talking in Earther. It asked me what I was doing on her "swing". I turned my head and regarded a small Markab child, probably a girl, but I am not good at telling the sex of alien pouchlings or their age.
The sight of her brought me to my feet. She was familiar somehow. Then I remembered. I had relived Na'Tal's death whilst I was being treated for my fractured skull in the Markab facilities. I frequently dreamed of Na'Tal's death and usually awoke terribly distressed. This time the reliving had ended with a great feeling of peace, and this little Markab pouchling had been the last thing I had seen.
"I've seen you before! You were in my dream!" I exclaimed without thinking.
The child regarded me steadily. "I've never seen you before." She waved at the swing. "You aren't doing it properly. Let me show you." She sat down on the board. Her short legs didn't actually reach the ground. "Can you give me a push?"
She held on to the chains and waited for me to push her. I gently shoved the swing away from me. She used a rocking motion to get the swing higher. "Push me more!"
I was charmed by the way she trusted me. I am not used to aliens automatically trusting me. Mostly they react like the Pak'ma'ra. I seem to be intimidating by the standards of many races, being tall and strong. I am not dainty and delicate like many Minbari or Earther or even Centauri females. My race tend to be heavily built, and I take advantage of my strength. I am glad to be what I am - being one of those little things would be very distressing.
The Markab child let the swing slow down, then jumped off it, landing on running feet. "That was fun! I'm Kimmini. Who are you?"
"My name is Na'Tiel."
"Are you guests of my father, Orini?"
I nodded, and the pouchling smiled happily. She showed me the rest of her play equipment - she called the pivot board a seesaw, the ladder and board a slide and the gantry monkeybars. These things, she assured me, were children's playthings. I was moderately surprised - Narnish pouchlings did not have such things for we did not have much opportunity for play. Our upbringing is all directed to acquiring skills in fighting and gaining technology, with a dash of diplomacy, according to our abilities. She demonstrated the monkeybars by climbing up the small ladder at one end and hanging off the crossbars of the horizontal part. Then she climbed up the ladder of the slide and slid down on her front. The seesaw was a little more difficult, though. I called Nar'Bon out again and asked him to sit on the other end of the seesaw again. He regarded me with some suspicion but did as I asked. Kimmini also climbed on in front of him. I hopped on near the pivot point and slithered back. With the added slight weight of Kimmini's body, we were more equally balanced than before, and I could push us up and down with ease. Kimmini laughed and giggled, and I found myself smiling at her happiness. I gave in and joined in her chuckling. Nar'Bon did not understand our amusement.
Back | Forward | Na'Tiel's Story | Lynne's home page