Curiosity Kills Part 9
Mission: To The Rescue
Banks' eyes snapped open as she heard what sounded like twigs breaking underfoot. The fire gave the inside of the shuttle a haunting appearance. She shifted her feet off her footrest which was still snoring and reached for the makeshift blade she'd fashioned. Whatever was coming would get a surprise.
Millie wriggled in the makeshift sling around Tsshk's shoulders. She patted his chest repeatedly. "There it is! Put me down!" She knew the older creature didn't understand her words, but she said them anyway. "Banks!" she yelled.
"Millie..." Banks muttered, dropping the blade and forcing herself to her feet and hopping to the door. "You're alive."
Tsshk let out a low rumble from his trunk as he released the knot on the sling, and Millie half-tumbled to the ground in her excitement. Pushing herself up--still somewhat weakly--she spotted Banks in the back of the shuttle. "Trish!"
"Where have you....what the hell is that?!"
Millie, if but a little unsteady on her feet, rushed to her friend, catching her in an embrace. "I was so worried for you! Are you alright?"
Behind Millie, Knn stepped up alongside his elder, gripping his spear warily. The sound of rustling branches passed between them, and Knn cautiosly looked to the forest around them.
Banks hugged Millie tight. "I'm fine. Your other friend paid me a visit and won't leave." As if on cue the animal rose from the floor and let out a series of noises seeing Millie.
Millie pulled away just enough to see the elephant-like creature step out into the light. "Wait...the one with the melons? It came back?"
"I think its been looking for you. You've just got all the friends."
"You were the only friend I was worried about." Millie gestured to one of the downed logs. "You should be sitting down. How is your leg?"
"It's fine." She said in her normal deadpan. "What's with the Arbor Day Committee?"
Millie chuckled softly as she eased Banks over to a seat. It was good to know that her sense of humor was still intact. "They found me unconscious in the forest. I made it the first day's walk, and passed out sometime in the morning of the second day." Millie sat next to her friend. "How long was I gone?"'
"A week? I'm not even sure how long we've been gone for." Her tone barely hid her worry.
Millie gave her friend's hand a squeeze. "Don't give up on me now, Trish."
A metallic "bang" drew Millie's attention. Behind them, Knn banged the butt of his spear on the wreckage of the shuttle. He circled the ship, banging on the walls. Tsshk worked his way back along the line of damaged trees, carefully touching the fallen trunks.
"Maybe we ought to get back inside."
Millie shook her head. "I think they're just curious." She gestured to Knn, who strode past them and into the shuttle. "That's Knn. From what I've been able to figure out, I think he's one of the warriors. I think he's younger, though, because I saw him stand up to defend me, and it was like watching Henry remind me of my rank."
She pointed to the elder, who was engaged in some kind of sign-communication with the elephant. "That's Tsshk. I woke up in his dwelling, and I think he has some kind of empathic relationship with the forest. He's one of the oldest in their village, from what I could tell. I think his wife is a healer of some kind." In the dimming sunlight, Millie could still see the extensive bruises on Banks' leg, and she gave the woman's hand another squeeze.
"How many people get to make two first contacts in a week? You're gonna be famous....when they find our skeletons." She gave a little smirk.
Millie managed a grin back. "Well, you were the one who got a roommate while I was off dying in the forest from some kind of sun sickness or radiation poisoning." She looked over at Knn, who gave a low rumble and a rustle.
He gave a huff, grunting at Millie. Scowling, he knocked their "shelter" with his spear again. He stepped inside the gaping maw where the rear of the shuttle had been sheared away, gesturing at the open gap and rumbling again.
"I don't think he approves of our shelter," Millie chuckled softly.
"Sorry, it was the best we could do with no notice," Banks said towards Knn.
Knn wrinkled his nose, obviously not understanding what Banks was saying. He turned, gesturing to the wide open space at the back of the shuttle. He made a rustling sound, looking at the two women, expecting some kind of an answer--and then he stopped. In the dim light, he gave Banks a look-over, before quickly closing the gap. He took the shaft of his spear, and gave a quick rap against the splint on Banks' leg.
"OW!" She hopped back, nearly toppling over. "What the hell is his...it's....problem?!"
Knn strode into the shuttle, returning with a smoldering branch from the fire like a torch. He jammed the unlit end into the dirt and knelt at Banks' feet, examining the haphazard splint with a scowl. From the soft, agitated rustling of leaves along his head and neck, he seemed to be muttering to himself.
"Millie....." her tone indicated a mix of nervousness and growing agitation.
The Counselor put a hand on Banks' shoulder, reassuringly as she watched Knn. "I think it's okay. So far, they've not done anything to hurt me.
By now, Tsshk and the other creature had approached, still conversing through hand signals. After a rumble from Knn, Tsshk likewise knelt to examine Banks and her injury. He gave a scowl, slipping a carved knife from the sheath at his belt.
"Touch me and you'll pull back splinters."
"Banks--" Millie gave her friend a concerned look. "He and his mate were the ones that---"
As Millie reached out to slow down Tsshk's approach, her hand touched the hand holding the blade, and he let out a yelp. He pulled back his hand, as if in pain, and dropped the knife.
Banks quickly picked it up, taking a defensive posture.
Knn quickly grabbed his Elder, pulling Tsshk out of arm's reach. He held his spear defensively, his branches rustling like a rattlesnake tail in warning.
"Bring it, redwood."
Millie quickly stepped between the two opponents, her hands up to show she was unarmed. She kept her eyes on Knn, but reached a hand back towards Banks. Her heart was pounding in fear, not for her own safety, but the safety of her friend. "Trish..." Her warning came softly.
The grumble wasn't subtle but a moment later she put the knife in Millie's hand.
Millie let out the breath she'd been holding as she extended the knife, hilt-first, back to Tsshk. Instead, Knn took the blade, giving a low rumble. When Tsshk issued a rumble of his own, the Elder was begrudgingly handed the blade.
Tsshk knelt down again, but he instead handed the blade to Millie. The look he gave to Banks was one of either hesitancy or distrust, but it was hard to tell in the dim flicker of the burning torch. Slowly, he extended a branchy finger to the frayed bits of uniform cloth holding together the leg brace, and the other hand pointed to the blade he'd handed to Millie.
Banks' eyes were focused on him but she didn't move away. "What's he wanting to do?"
Millie watched Tsshk's gesture again. "I think he wants me to cut off the splint." She turned to Banks. "They nursed me back to health, Trish. My fever was so high that I was hallucinating. They at least have some basic herbal medical knowledge. Maybe we should let them take a look."
After a few moments gave a small nod. "Okay."
Millie knelt next to Banks, gently placing a hand on the injured leg. She looked up into her friend's eyes. "You know I would never let anyone harm you. Ever."
Banks nodded again, her eyes going to each of the..things surrounding them. The elephant-thing seemed to be passive but keeping a close eye on the happenings. "Alright, whatever they're going to do, just do it."
Millie cut through the strips of uniform, careful to avoid cutting skin. Behind her, Knn disappeared into the forest, while Tsshk laid out his cloak on the ground. She gave a glance over her shoulder, confirming what Banks' careful gaze was observing. "So, does your friend have a name?"
Banks was staring up that the emerging stars, steeling herself. "At the moment it seems to be 'hey, you.' Showed up a few days ago and then some creature attacked. Before I could react he..it..closed the gap and swatted that thing into the air. After that it hasn't left."
"So, you've found yourself a knight in shining armor? What ever are we going to tell your husband?" Millie grinned as she carefully removed the sides of the splint.
"Oh you're hilarious." Banks said through gritted teeth.
Millie's heart sank a little. She knew that if Banks was showing this much pain, it wasn't good sign. "Hang in there. Let's get you down on the ground, da?"
Banks was edged down to her back. She had been through multiple injuries before, a broken leg was on the low scale of them, but she was anxious this time. The strange creatures gathered around didn't help.
After a gesture, the elephant-creature took the torch in its trunk, holding up the light. Tsshk hovered over the injured leg, examining it closely. Knn returned, setting down several long strips of sturdy vines and a handful of straight branches. Knn knelt, also examining the leg, his branches rustling.
With a tentative expression on his face, Tsshk put his hands on either side of the injured leg.
Banks took shallow breaths, keeping her eyes upwards towards the sky.
"Hey." Millie cupped one of Banks' cheeks gently. "I'm right here. Just focus on me."
Banks gave her a very fake grin. "I'm okay, it's fine."
At that moment, Tsshk handed a small stick to Banks. His lips parted, and he made a biting motion as Knn took a hold of Banks' ankle.
That biting wasn't a great thing to see but she got the point, putting the stick between her teeth. "Do it," she said around the stick.
Tsshk and Knn gave a nod together, and both sets of hands jerked.
A scream echoed into the forest with small bird fluttering into the air before the quiet of the night returned. The creature with chattering metallic teeth looked to the horizon where the sound came from and began its trek.
Lieutenant JG Aemilia "Millie" Stepanova
Chief Counselor, USS Mercutio
Chief Intelligence Officer, USS Mercutio