The World Health Organization, which is the human equivalent of the Interspecies Galactic Health and Wellness Coalition, sent us to India to have Skaalt land.
Before I tell the story of Skaalt’s landing and the events immediately after, let me first describe India. It is the most populous country on Earth, and is home for over one billion humans. Its cities are immense and sprawling. Its countrysides are densely forested and full of small towns. Its people are loud, boisterous, friendly, and very touchy.
Also, it’s my opinion that they have the best food on Earth. Perhaps second best to the region of Northern Africa.
We were, luckily, not in a city, but just outside of one. Which meant that the roads were crammed to capacity. Horns were blaring, humans were yelling at each other, and mopeds were swerving through the melee with reckless abandon. I was worried that it would cause too much noise, but the inside of the compound was totally silent. Eerily so.
The room had been (hastily) prepared to my specifications. Four tarps had been set down near the immense doors. The doors had water-tight seals, and the floor was solid concrete. Beyond the interior doors were decontamination rooms where aerosolized disinfectants would be blasted at every surface that might carry an unwelcome guest from Skaalt.
As it would turn out, none of these preparations would be of any use, but I didn’t know that then. I was still hoping, even though I knew better, that Earth was a planet that needed protecting from the likes of Deathworlders.
“So, what is Skaalt like?” Nick asked me while we sat in the harsh glow of the fluorescent lights. Waiting.
“He’s a much more experienced planetary surveyor than I am,” I said.
“How many planets has he surveyed?”
“A hundred, perhaps.”
Sandra looked up from her notebook, where I could see she was reading a paper about the classifications of different planets. “I thought most surveyors only do fifty in their careers,” she said.
“That is true. Skaalt has a different niche than most of us: he surveys planets that are completely uninhabited to see if they can be colonized or terraformed.”
“Oh,” Sandra said.
I nodded, “It’s much faster to declare a planet uninhabitable than it is to survey an inhabited one.”
“Hmm,” Nick said. “Sounds lonely.”
“It is, but he doesn’t see it that way.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’ll have to wait and see.”
My communication pinged with an incoming message from Skaalt. “I’m in the upper atmosphere now. Send out the signal so I know where to land.”
I turned on the setting that turned the communicator into a homing beacon.
I wished we had been outside to see Skaalt’s ship descend. It’s quite a thing to watch an advanced spacecraft enter the atmosphere of a planet. It’s like a falling meteorite that stops before it hits the ground.
We did feel it, though. The building vibrated on its foundation with the disturbance of the air. I imagined the lorries and mopeds coming to a stop in the street outside to watch the spacecraft cruise past overhead.
We had let the local and international authorities know about Skaalt landing on Earth through the World Health Organizations. So he wouldn’t be shot down or attacked. Probably.
“Was that the spaceship?” Nick asked excitedly.
Before I could respond, my communicator began to trill, and I picked it up.
“Do they want me to come in through the doors?” Skaalt said into my ear.
“Yes,” I said, “you can get the ship inside, right?”
“Of course,” He sounded offended that I was even asking. “I’m just not used to planets without landing pads.”
“They haven’t developed the technology for space ports yet,” I reminded him.
“Fine. Yes. I’ll do it.”
I stood up as the ship appeared at the doors. Skaalt’s ship is old, pock-marked with dents and scrapes from outer space collisions. It was shaped like an oblong human plane, with stumpy fins and large engines, one on each side. He had added decals of dark spikes and vines and figures in purples and reds. They were usually bright, but right now they were beat up, scratched, and faded. Wherever he had been before I called him for help, it must have been a rough appointment.
The humans around me gasped and murmured as the landing gear unfolded and the engines stopped humming. The ship dropped the last few inches onto the ground, but the suspension cushioned the fall.
“That’s so fucking cool,” Sandra said beside me.
“I love that paint job,” Nick said.
“Skaalt will be happy to hear that,” I said.
The ramp of the spacecraft lowered like an enormous jaw opening, and stood open for almost a full minute. I waited, picturing Skaalt collecting his belongings – grabbing his communicator and notebooks, activating the English language in his translation implants. The humans gathered closer, even the security guards. The anticipation was palpable.
Then Skaalt appeared out of the ship, loping down the ramp at the gentle jog he usually uses to get around. It made him bounce on his six sets of toes. He came down the ramp in less than a second, and was bowing his head to greet me when the humans snapped out of their shock and began to react.
Beside me, Sandra and Nick both screamed. Nick grabbed me by the shoulders and yanked me away, over his outstretched foot. I tripped, flailed a moment, then fell hard onto the concrete on my bad hip. Something popped, and I yelped in pain.
I looked up as Sandra swung an open palm at Skaalt. She slapped him hard. So hard his head twisted, and then she lunged forward and shoved him hard with a forearm. Nick was right behind her, hands up like he was ready to swing at Skaalt with his fists.
The rest of the humans rushed in, shouting. Screaming. The security guards had drawn handguns and were pointing them at Skaalt, screaming at him to get down. The others bared their teeth and screamed.
I struggled up from the ground. “Stop!” I said.
Sandra was still right up in Skaalt’s face, shoving him backwards, actually pushing him off balance. He wasn’t responding yet, but his spiked tail was twitching back and forth.
“Sandra!” I yelled. “Stop it!”
She looked back at me, perplexed. Skaalt took the opportunity to hook an arm around her waist and lift her off the ground. He stood to his full height and held her in two of his hands at arm’s length. With his other set of hands, he shoved Nick back several steps, forcing him away.
I should describe Skaalt’s physical appearance, just in case a picture cannot be provided. He is over two and a half meters tall when at full height, which means the average human is just over half his height. His species is not bipedal or quadrupedal but hexapedal, meaning he has six legs. Three pairs of them at regular intervals down his body. They extend away from the body at an upward angle and have two knees and an ankle each jointed. There’s natural, spiked armor over all of his joints. His upper-torso is upright like a human’s, but he had two pairs of arms, not one. He has four eyes surrounded by dark fur on his head, just over a large mouth filled with sharp teeth. Two of them jut out from the top jaw over his lips like fangs. He also has a long, mobile tail tipped with many large spikes. Each of which carries a venom that burns terribly and makes the heart race so fast it sometimes explodes. Most of these traits, humans find unnerving or disturbing. And that is before they learn what the large splotches of color that cover his body are.
I waved my arms at the security guards, telling them to stop aiming their weapons at Skaalt. They lowered their guns, and the scientists backed off, relaxing their arms.
Skaalt rumbled in amusement. “I haven’t had a welcome like this in years,” He said in English. Then he switched to galactic common and said to me, “So this is Sandra?” He gestured at her with his free hand. He was holding her up under the arms like a child.
“That’s her. Please put her down.” I pushed Nick off of me and started to walk over to Skaalt, but my sore leg was protesting against putting any weight on it. I had to balance on one foot to dull the pain.
Sandra’s feet hit the ground and she stepped back, looking up at Skaalt. He brushed his hands off, first one set, then the other.
“Hello,” She said in a very small voice. “I’m sorry I hit you.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
I took a painful step, forcing myself not to limp. I would complain about the pain in a minute, I told myself. Skaalt lowered his head to me again so we could see eye-to eye.
“Hello again, Acharya,” He said, “it’s been too long.”
“It has,” I said in galactic common, and reached up for a hug, which he gave me with the lowest pair of his arms.
I heard Sandra audibly gasp, and when Skaalt let me go, she was right beside me. I took advantage and used her to steady myself on my feet and take weight off my bad leg.
“Skaalt,” I said, “these are Sandra and Nick. They are my research assistants here on Earth.”
“Nice to meet you, little fighters,” Skaalt said, “you’ve established your territory, don’t worry.”
“Sorry again,” Sandra said. She gave me her forearm to lean on, which I gratefully accepted. I wished I’d brought a crutch or a cane.
“Never apologize for listening to your instincts,” Skaalt said, “no matter how violent. You know an enemy when you see one.” He shook his fur out, and a thousand particles of spores and pollen flew into the air like a cloud.
I put my free hand over my mouth and nose so I wouldn’t breathe it in, but the humans didn’t seem bothered or even uncomfortable.
The other doctors and security approached curiously now that it was clear they weren’t being attacked. One of them, the head of research, took it upon himself to introduce their work to Skaalt. While they were talking, Sandra leaned into me.
“Is your leg okay?” She asked.
I shook my head no, hating that I had to admit it as much as I liked having the excuse to lean into her.
“Would you like a chair?”
“No,” I said, “we’ll sit on the ground with Skaalt.” I looked around and saw that everyone else was distracted. “help me sit, please.”
Sandra helped me over to the tarps and supported me while I sat. Then she sat down beside me and crossed her legs.
“Thank you,” I told her.
She shrugged, “don’t mention it.”
Nick dropped down next to us. “That was fucking terrifying,” He said.
“You screamed and ran like a bitch,” Sandra accused.
“I was trying to get Acharya away.”
“Yes, and you hurt my leg,” I said. I felt the sore place on my thigh, trying to tell if the synthetic bone had broken. It didn’t feel displaced, but it was still throbbing. I hoped nothing had splintered.
“Oh, shit. Sorry.”
I didn’t dignify that with a response, just waited for Skaalt to be done with the scientists and come see us. When, eventually, he did, the first thing he said was, “did that human hurt your leg?” in galactic common.
“Yes,” I told him. “They’re strong.” I switched to English, “Nick and Sandra both exercise to build strength, and they can pack quite a punch.”
“Yes, I noticed,” Skaalt folded his legs and sat behind me. He had a reddish bruise on his face where Sandra had slapped him. I leaned against his side, grateful to take the weight off my lower back. I knew that, like Sandra and Nick, Skaalt liked casual touch from people he trusted.
“Thank you for agreeing to come to Earth,” I said to him. “I’m sorry you can’t see the planet properly, but I think just talking to these two and the scientists will be enough.”
“I’m sorry, but why can’t Skaalt go outside?” One of the scientists had made their way over to us. “We did a lot of work securing the inside doors just to have the main one open to let him in.”
I pointed to a lurid red splotch on Skaalt’s underbelly, then the bluish one next to it. “It’s these we have to worry about,” I said.
“Oh my god,” Sandra said, “you’re like a coral reef!”
The humans frowned, leaned in, and then recoiled from him when they realized what Sandra meant. Three of the scientists pulled out masks and strapped them on, then approached Skaalt.
“Don’t be silly,” Skaalt told them. “I’m not dangerous to you. Unless I want to be,” he swished the barbed end of his tail across the concrete.
“They’re microbe colonies,” I offered.
The humans wanted to know what that meant, and we had to spend an hour explaining it.
“I carry my home planet with me,” Skaalt explained, as he had explained to me before. I pictured my younger self, sitting in my mobility chair, legless, listening to a creature four times my size wax poetic about microscopic plants. Back then, I had been wide-eyed and anxious to learn, to go further and do more. I craved all the wisdom Skaalt had, yet I couldn’t understand him. Not really.
He told the humans about the biology of his home world. He touched each patch of color and named them. The red one was Victor’s blood, a red moss planted on those who had seen battle. The greenish patch by his neck was Starcap moss. The blue spatter over his back was Blue Lurie’s Ears. “They are my companions on my journey,” He said, “they are my friends and family. And yes, I can talk to them. But mostly it’s done through watching their growth patterns.”
And then, the most unexpected thing happened. One of the humans sat, pulled off a shoe, and peeled away a bandage from their sole. Beneath it was a patch of pitted, slick skin. “This is Frank,” he said, “but he’s just a pain, not pretty to look at.”
Skaalt leaned over, pressing his hands to the ground to get a better look. “Is it a fungus?”
“A virus,” The human said.
Skaalt blinked his three sets of eyes in sequence. “And it hurts?”
“Yes. I’m treating it, but the virus is in my cells and might never go away.”
That was, frankly, terrifying.
“Do all humans have them?” Skaalt asked.
“No,” the scientists answered.
“But there’s another virus that three quarters of the population has,” Sandra said. “Herpes one. It can also cause growths.”
The rest of the humans shuffled and murmured, shot her dirty looks.
“They’re aliens!” Sandra said, “they have no concept of what we’re ashamed of or what we’re hiding from them. And they need to know.” She pulled out her phone and typed for a moment. Nick did the same.
Skaalt and I exchanged a look.
“Humans don’t grow plants on our bodies,” Sandra said. “But we are covered, inside and out, with bacteria, mites, viruses, bugs, water bears—”
“Yes, your microbiome. I am familiar. Can your immune systems fight them off?” Skaalt asked. I scrambled to pull out my notebook and start taking notes.
“Most of the time.”
“When something does make it past our defenses, it’s nasty.” She took a breath. “Do your plants ever make you sick?”
Skaalt rumbled. “They can, if I’m not careful. They must be kept in balance. The greater threat is that they will spread rapidly if their seeds drop on the ground.”
“Oh! They’re invasive species?” Nick asked.
“Yes. You have a name for it?”
“Sure. It seems like everything on Earth is invasive.”
“You should tell him about the rabbits,” Sandra said.
“And the emus,” She added.
Skaalt looked at me questioningly.
“An emu is a large feathered animal. As big as a human,” I said in galactic common.
“Are a lot of Earth animals as large as humans?” Skaalt asked
“Yes,” I said.
Nick told Skaalt about Australia’s problems with invasive rabbits transplanted from other places. He also shared about human attempts to curtail the emu population in western Australia by shooting them with artillery.
Skaalt rumbled. His secondary respiratory openings, the ones on the ridge of his back, hissed out air. The whistling made the humans jump, but I knew it was a laugh.
“My planet went through similar problems,” he said, and then described the plight of farmers trying to grow food when large grazing animals broke down their fences to get the grain. The humans told him how grains on Earth was a major draw for small scavengers that pose just as much of a problem. The humans discussed using cats and dogs to fight off the threat.
“Rats and mice carry fleas and ticks, and they carry diseases and parasites,” Nick explained.
“Ah, we are back to diseases again.” Skaalt went in for the first real question, “Do most humans die of infections?”
“I don’t know,” Nick said.
Sandra shook her head, “I think it’s cancer.”
One of the scientists came forward and sat down on the tarp. “We do,” he said, “and more of us used to. There is a disease called dysentery. It lives in stagnant water, and it will kill a human in less than a week if untreated, and it used to. A lot.”
So that was why humans were so careful about water. Or one reason.
I had pulled up my notes about the criteria for classifying a planet as a death world. A few minutes ago. I checked the box labeled, “multiple deadly diseases endemic to the population.” Skaalt and the humans were comparing notes about childhood illnesses and chronic conditions.
On Skaalt’s planet, children were often born dead or died soon after. On Earth, humans were a little more robust now, but two-hundred years ago, it had been much the same. I checked the box labeled, “High child mortality rates.”
On Skaalt’s planet, children were taught from a young age to avoid deep water and flat planes because of natural predators. On Earth, it was dense forest and jungles. And humans sometimes hunted each other. I checked the box labeled, “Natural predators to dominant species common.” The box below that, “Chemical weapons common in native flora and fauna” was already checked.
On Skaalt’s planet, they had to terraform huge tracts of land to grow food and tend livestock away from natural dangers. On Earth, it was possible to live off the land (I am absolutely sure no other species would have been able to do it other than humans), but it was much easier and less dangerous to do the same. I put a notation beside the box labeled, “Limited food supply.”
From there the conversation spiraled off into different cooking methods and what kinds of foods were available. Skaalt’s body was still adapted to eating raw foods from his homeworld, but humans had long ago lost the second stomach they had probably had to process the tough plant matter on earth. There were, apparently, a lot of things they could eat raw, but finding them in the wild was challenging.
About halfway through the conversation, Sandra moved to properly sit next to me, like she wanted to lean against me. She didn’t lean against Skaalt, but the fact she was willing to get so near to him was a good sign, I thought. And a bad one.
Skaalt peered over at us, turning his head almost backwards and leaning down sideways.
“You’re very flexible,” Sandra told him. “I wish I could bend like that.”
“It’s a necessity when you are carrying children on your back,” Skaalt said. “So much of what we can do is so we can reproduce more efficiently, yes?”
“You’re preaching to the choir,” Sandra said. “Acharya knows what a pain human babies are.”
“I read their report,” Skaalt rumbled. He put one of his hands on the back of my neck, as if he meant to lift me like a hatchling. “They never got comfortable with the idea of live birth.”
“Does your species not lay eggs?” Sandra asked, turning the questions around as was her habit. A good natural instinct.
Skaalt purred again, and the breathing holes flapped. “You are right, Acharya, she is good at this.”
Sandra furrowed her brow. “What?”
“It’s nothing, little one. We do have eggs, but they stay inside their mother. Only the strongest baby emerges alive when it is ready. Though, sometimes, it will try to eat its way out.”
I watched Sandra and Nick for their reactions. Nick flinched and winced, but Sandra immediately said, “Oh, like sharks!” Then she thought about it for a moment and said, “sorry, humans get so attached to our children, I don’t know if I’m comfortable with the idea of them killing and eating each other.”
“Very well said,” Skaalt complimented her. “The differences between us is what makes planetary exploration and interspecies communication so difficult.”
“I bet,” Sandra said, “we have enough trouble just navigating cultural differences here on earth.”
I crossed my good leg under me to get more leverage on my notebook. “For the most part, all human cultures want space travel. At least all the ones that I have come across.”
“Except for Jiemba,” Sandra said.
“He is the exception,” I said.
“Who is Jiemba?” Skaalt asked.
“A human dron we met in Australia,” I said, and we told the story.
“There are humans that love Earth?” Skaalt sounded surprised.
“Plenty do,” Sandra said, “I do. This is my home.”
“But you would leave,” I said. It wasn’t a question.
She hesitated, then nodded. “I want to see what else is out there.”
“Why?” I asked.
A longer hesitation this time. She looked away.
“Is it because you want to explore space?” Skaalt asked her, kindly.
Sandra shook her head. “Space is terrifying. Beautiful, but terrifying. Like Earth. I want to see other planets and meet other species.”
“Is that what you’ve always wanted to do?”
“Since we first made contact with extraterrestrial life, yes.” She said, “I was sixteen when the International Space Station made contact with the first exploration ship.”
“I was eighteen,” Nick said. “Did your parents freak out too?”
“My dad immediately drove to the state capitol and joined demonstrators advocating for a peaceful relationship,” Sandra said.
I flicked an ear in amusement. The two humans went on comparing notes about their first contact with alien life.
“Your father thought humans would fight aliens on sight?” Skaalt asked. “Is that usually how you respond to new people?”
The humans shrugged. “Historically, yes,” Nick said.
“Because,” Sandra said, “That’s what you do when you discover a new place: you take over.”
Skaalt sat on that statement for a long time. His tail swished back and forth on the tarp, crinkling the plastic. I knew that silence: it usually came just before he did something impulsive.
“Whatever you are about to say,” I told him, “the answer is, ‘no.'”
Skaalt feigned offense by fluffing his fur out and flicking his tail at me. “Watch yourself, Acharya. You’re not old enough to tell me what to do.”
“And you’re a wise old crotchety sand-swimmer,” I told him.
He laughed again, and I heard the humans around us breathe out collectively.
“What I was going to say,” Skaalt said, “is that I want to see this world. And provided it is strong enough to fight off some foreign fungus, I think I may be able to.”
I sighed and looked at the humans. Sandra patted my arm.
“We can ask,” I said. “But if we’re going to do that, we should worry less about Earth and more about you getting swarmed by humans. You saw how these few people reacted to you.”
“You could always just use social media,” Nick suggested. “Let people see you before you actually meet them.
I opened my notebook and checked the box labeled, “natural instinct for violence in the population. Warlike culture from native points of view. Exposure to aliens must be done slowly.” The box below that was labeled, “common-sense paranoia,” and had a notation next to it already. I was unsure whether or not human vigilance counted as paranoia or not.
“Let me see this internet Acharya is always on about,” Skaalt said, and all the humans jumped to show him.
I reached down to my leg again. Sandra shifted closer to me, concerned.
“Can I get you a crutch from the hotel?” She asked.
“I don’t know if it would help at this point,” I said. “I might need a wheeled chair.”
Now her brow furrowed, and she reached out to touch my leg before stopping. “May I?”
“No,” I said, “please don’t. You can’t help with this.”
She took her hand away, but stayed focused on me while I pushed and pressed, and then gave myself an experimental whack with an open palm. Pain shot up my back, but nothing else changed.
“Stop that,” Sandra said sharply. She glared at me. “You’re going to make it worse. I’ll take you to a hospital for an x-ray.”
I tried to protest, but my brain was clogged up with both indignation and affection, and I couldn’t make sense of them.
She got to her feet beside me. “Come on. I’ll help you up.”
I shook my head. “I can’t yet. Skaalt is still here.”
Skaalt’s head turned to us. “What was that?” He was holding Nick’s phone, peering at the tiny screen with one of his eyes.
Sandra looked at him, and said “Archie’s leg might be broken.”
“Hey, what the fuck?” Nick said, “Is it that bad?”
“I don’t know. It’s not my leg.”
“It’s nothing I haven’t been through before,” I told the humans. “As long as I stay still, I’ll be fine.”
“No,” Sandra said, though she had lowered her voice now. “You need an x-ray.”
“I agree with Sandra,” Skaalt said. “If you just broke it, it needs to be checked.”
“I’m fine,” I protested. I could feel myself starting to whine just a little, but fought it down. “We have work to do.”
“Work can wait,” Sandra said, “right, Nick, Skaalt?”
Nick was nodding.
“We don’t need to wait. I can continue working while you are being examined,” Skaalt said. “That is part of why I’m here, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I admitted.
Sandra looked around. “Let’s wait until we decide if you can come outside,” she said. “We could use your spaceship to take you to a hospital in Europe.”
“You want to fly to a whole other country to look at my leg?” I asked, flabbergasted.
“Yes,” Sandra said, widening her eyes at me. “None of us speak a language other than English. We should go somewhere most doctors do too.”
I decided to stop arguing and focus on maintaining calm.
Nick went back to teaching Skaalt to navigate the human internet, and soon he was pulling up scientific data on soil composition and native plant growth and studying it.
Skaalt, like many surveyors, specializes in biology. His purview is carbon-based low-classification worlds, like Earth, so I knew he would understand the readings.
Sandra stayed glued to my side while they talked, but she did participate. And soon they were talking about things that left me in zero doubt that humans were Deathworlders. They talked about the pain of small insects, the fear of large predators, the instinctive need to hunt and chase. They talked about hide and seek and tag.
“Lots of animals chase each other and learn to stalk each other,” Skaalt said, “but the only two advanced species we know of that play like that are my species, and now yours.”
“Really?” Sandra said, “What makes it so different from other species?”
“It’s the way we do both,” Skaalt said, “hide and hunt. Acharya here, they are not like us. They’re a prey species.”
“Childhood games are about who can camouflage themselves better, or dig deepest,” I explained. Now that I had stopped poking it, my leg was a lot less painful. “we never chase each other.”
“I didn’t know that,” Sandra said. “But you played hide and seek with us, right?”
“And I was terrified the whole time I was doing it,” I said. “Being really hunted by humans must be a nightmare.”
“It is,” Sandra said, “one that millions on Earth live through every day. You haven’t seen it, Archie, but there’re a lot of scary, evil humans. Really seriously dangerous humans.”
“Those people exist in every civilization,” I assured her, but I didn’t really believe that. I knew human history enough by then to know how true her words were.
Skaalt huffed, but didn’t comment further. He went back to analyzing the soil and climate data from Earth’s scientists.
I sorely needed a distraction, so I opened my notebook and went looking for news on the Canteron war fleet. There were watchdog groups an peacekeepers tracking their movements, and, like all war fleets, there were pirates looking to scrap anything they happened to blast, so their whereabouts were well-known.
The last anyone had seen them, the Canteron had been buying supplies at a space station only a few hundred light years away from Earth. With the kind of technology they had at their disposal, they could be here in less than a month. Maybe only a week if they were very well prepared.
I checked the date on the last reported sightings of the Canteron. They were nearly ten days old. I looked up at the humans around me, wondering if they had any idea at all that they could be at war within the month. The sense of dread and foreboding that had been growing within me for months bubbled to the surface.
“I can safely go outside,” Skaalt said. He sounded like he didn’t quite believe it. He ducked his head and rechecked the numbers. In galactic common, he said to me, “This world has anti-fungal adaptations in nearly every species. Did you know that?”
“I did not,” I said, “but I am not a biologist, you know that.”
“Despite my best efforts.” He looked at the humans around us. His six legs clicked, lifted. One of his hands reached back and picked me up, seated me in the spot just behind his first shoulder blades where the fur was stiff and sturdy so I could hold on.
“Thank you for letting us use your facility for this meeting,” I said to the scientists below us, trying not to wince.
“You’re very welcome,” one of them said. “Before you go, can we take a photo of all of us?”
I was about to say no, but Skaalt said, “Yes, let’s. And post it online. I don’t want the rest of humanity to attack me the way you did.”
So I sat quietly while they arranged a photograph with all the humans, Skaalt, and myself in it. I perked my ears up and did my best to look cheerful while they took it, but my leg was throbbing and I wanted a brace on it as soon as possible.
Skaalt turned back towards the ship. “I’m taking you to a medical facility,” he told me. “You don’t get a choice.”
“You all are going to be the death of me,” I said, looking at the two humans scrambling alongside towards the ship.
“Are we coming with you on the ship?” Nick said.
“Yes, of course. Come on,” Skaalt skittered up the ramp and carried me into the ship. Sandra and Nick ran up behind us, both of them beaming with excitement.