14/08/07, 16/04/2012- 20/02/2015

I'm sorry this has taken so long. I actually wrote a near to the end of the story chapter, and since then Harry and Earthman refused to talk to me! Only now are we starting to reunite, and the writers block is starting to crumble a bit. It probably doesn't help that I am studying, working, and being a single parent so time to write is hard to get anyway. I hope that you will like this chapter.

Thoughts of an Unnamed Earth Explorer

by Zuzanny


part 20


While waiting for the "all clear" to leave the med bay, I sat in one of the highly uncomfortable plastic chairs twiddling my thumbs with sheer boredom. All the others had been cleared to go already, so lucky me, I was lucky last. Maybe I should ask Iris for a pack of cards? I looked across the open med bay – the privacy screens were all pulled back to the walls- and spied the cubical that housed Elfondso while he was still recovering from having his neck snapped. He was still lying covered in blankets and connected to all sorts of machines with wires and tubes, but then I noticed him raising his left hand! I sat forward in my chair in shock, remembering the injury Iris had described, and knowing full well that any movement below the skull should have been impossible. Then Asari was there, his white hair lose down his back in a wild cascade and dressed in Iniri-grey just like Harry had been when we first met. Asari leaned over Elfondso and clasped that raised, much darker hand in his own. He leaned in closer still, and I watched as Elfondso's lips moved while he whispered in Asari's ear. Asari sat up, and turned Elfondso's hand palm up and proceeded to draw squiggles on Elfondso's palm with his finger tip, sometimes drawing lines up and down his arm.

"He's testing nerve conduction." Peterson said, suddenly appearing at my side (he obviously had been working on his Ninja Stealth Skills while we were away). "I don't know how the kid does it, being blind and all, but somehow he knows all the pathways and trigger points in the human body. Knows how to deal with them too. It's been fascinating to watch really. The plant mix he uses also works wonders. If I weren't such a scientist, I would almost say it was magic."

I didn't care about the details. I didn't need to know the intricacies of HOW Elfondso was getting better. All I cared about was the fact that even though he should be dead or a vegetable, and at best a quadriplegic, he was alive and heading back towards full motor control. This was breathtaking. I can't describe the burning hope that filled me as I watched that little alien kid doing his thing with my ship-mate, and seeing the life returning where there should be none. "Any idea how long it will take?" I asked.

Peterson shrugged. "At this rate, couple of months. Maybe less even."

I whistled. Magic indeed.


"I heard them screaming." Harry said quietly from his spot next to mine at the highly polished black debrief table that everyone from our little expedition was seated around. His face was a pale smudge reflected on the surface, disturbed by the bright light coming in through the edges of the drawn shades. "I was surprised none of you could hear them." He hunched forward, wrapping his arms around himself and looked down past the table to his knees. "But I forgot what you are." The last was barely a whisper that I only heard because I was right there next to him, straining forward to listen. Harry lifted his head back up to look at me, his eyes dark and haunted, shining with held back tears. "If you had heard them, would you have tried to help them?"

"Of course." I immediately replied.

He gave me pained smile. "Then you would have died as well."

"Hang on a minute, Harry," Rodgers said. "who, or what, are you talking about?"

Harry turned sharply to look at me before back at Rodgers, startled bewilderment on his face. "The (a bunch of noises/words that sounded like gibberish to everyone in the room, and confused the hell out of me) family." Seeing all our continued blank stares he choked out "The Jakre ATE them! They were still alive while He was chewing them! He only left the child because He was full!" and then he covered his face with his hands and burst into tears. Not really knowing what else to do, I pulled his shaking body into my arms so he could sob into my chest. After an initial hesitation, he came to me willingly, his fingers clinging to my shirt while he cried. I wrapped my arms around him, rubbing his back and cooing softly to try and comfort him. The others all exchanged uncomfortable glances, waiting for Harry to collect himself so we could continue with the debriefing. But he didn't. In fact it was like something inside him had burst open and he just started wailing like he was in agony- no, not even that because I have been with him when he was in agony. This was beyond agony even. And I hated not knowing what to do to fix it.

Iris made some hand signals suggesting that I take Harry back to our room to try and calm him. I gave he one firm nod, and then coaxed Harry to his feet and out of there.

As we walked I wondered how I really would have reacted if I had heard a bunch of PEOPLE being slaughtered by the Jakre? And then having their blood and chewed up bits drooled upon me? Knowing that there had been sentient being bits clinging to my hair made be want to vomit and my skin crawl. Five burning hot showers really was not enough.

Back in our quarters, I pushed Harry to the couch and then went about making him some of his grass tea. Eventually Harry stopped sobbing and just stared tiredly out the window, his face stained with tears. I handed him the steaming mug, and squatted opposite him.

"What do we do now?" He asked, sounding so lost.

"I don't know." I replied. He blinked down into the hot liquid, almost like he wasn't sure what to do with it. I shifted to sit next to him and wrapped my arms around him. "Drink." I ordered, and he did, first hesitantly then deeply, before he sighed and relaxed against me.

"I don't want to move." He whispered against my chest.

"Then don't." I ran my fingers through his hair at his scalp, and he made a small pleasured noise, before nuzzling further against my chest. It's amazing how relaxing running fingers through hair really is.

He eventually fell asleep like that. I sighed and put his half full cup of cold tea on the floor at out feet then reached for the remote. After flicking through hundreds of options, I ended up setting the viewer to the ongoing stream of assorted gold fish swimming in a tank. At least the water wasn't dirty this time.


"I think I now know what the problem is." Harry said from his spot by the window. He had one knee drawn up, one arm over that knee, looking very pensive. The sunlight spilled past him in golden streams, turning his silhouette dark.

"Hmm?" I prompted.

Harry turned his head to look at me. "Humans are different to Iniri."

I blinked, resisting the urge to say "Well, DUH!"

"Iniri are capable of carrying all life. That was part of why we were made like this."

"Yeah?" I had to draw it out. Harry looked at me with a frustrated expression. I am not stupid. I've just learned over the years that it is often better to have someone spell out what they mean rather than just assume you understand.

Harry continued, "but Humans are different. A child relies on an unevenness that does not exist within me like this. I thought it was strange at first, but I think I now understand. Your computer history told me of a number of your people who are born like us, yet are infertile. I was quite surprised by this, as you may have guessed, but it made me think. Only the females carry a child. A human child relies on that specifically. So... In order for a child between us to be viable, I must also be female." He stopped there, looking at me with a stern, yet expectant expression. I didn't know what to say, so I just blinked at him. "Would that bother you?"

I shook my head, still not really understanding what he was actually trying to say to me. When I told him so, he looked down at his hands with frustration.

"I don't have to be like this." He continued. "If you want me to be female... I can be."

"Oh." My eyes went wide with realisation, images of a female Harry with female bits floated about in the female loving part of my brain. I could feel myself smiling... then I frowned, wondering if Iniri were like those frogs that change their sex when needed. That could be cool actually. "Could I think about it for a while?"

Harry smiled slightly, but his eyes stayed sad. "Of course." He whispered, then turned to look back out the window again. "But don't take too long. I don't have forever any more."

It wasn't until I opened my tear-filled eyes and found my face pressed against Harry's head that I realised I had been dreaming. I wiped my eyes clean and sat back enough to just look at him, enjoying the light in his hair and casting shadows of his eye lashes onto his cheeks. He looked so relaxed, breathing softly under the afternoon sunlight. I didn't want to wake him-

"CHILDOFTHEFORESTWHOISEVERWANDERING!" was yelled from outside my door at the same time as heavy fists pounded against it. Harry's eyes flew open and he was on his feet with a gasp, looking around wildly with complete disorientation at his surroundings. His cup of tea was knocked over and spilled across the carpet. I sat clutching at my chest and gasping myself for a few moments while the pounding continued. "CHILDOFTHEFORESTWHOISWEVERWANDERING!"

I stumbled to the door and yanked it open to find an Iniri standing there that looked far too similar to Harry to not be related, even if he were shorter than Harry by a full head. "Yes?" I hissed. He looked startled at the way the door moved, then frowned at me before his eyes focused past me and into our rooms.

"I have discovered your location at last!" This Iniri shoved past me like I was nothing, and clasped both Harry's hands in his. Harry just stared at him with a look that told me he had no idea what was going on either. "Your presence is urgently required by the elders." He started tugging Harry towards the door.

"I query the situation?" Harry asked, allowing himself to be dragged along.

"The Boundaries have been lit. We must retreat to the canopies! We must leave NOW!"

There Harry dug in his heals and pulled out of the other's hands. "No, Dancing-in-the-rains-with-happiness," he breathed quietly, raising his head high regally. "I decline." the other Iniri's mouth dropped open, a look of absolute horror spread over his face. "This stronghold will protect us. Traversing at this time endangers all."

"What's going on?" I asked, somewhat peeved that I was being left out of this conversation. Both Harry and the Dancing guy turned to me.

"The Jakre' has been spotted within our lands." Harry said in my own language, and I only just realised they had been speaking Iniri. My eyes widened thinking about that giant monster again. "My sibling was sent to find me so we could hide." then he frowned at his sibling, growling out, "But not my mate, or my mate's people?"

Dancer did duck down with a whine at that, looking very scared to tell the truth. "I entreat you, sibling, leave this place with haste!"

Harry closed his eyes, and clenched his fists at his sides taking in a deep slow breath through his teeth. "I cannot." He said with finality. "I am bound to my mate, and the fate of his people." At Dancer's continued protests, Harry's eyes actually flashed with anger. This... actually gave me a bit of a fright. "The One Who Remembers made it so!"

Dancer folded in on himself, his ears drooping. He made me think of a kicked puppy.

"If that monster's walking around, there is no way anyone should be out there." I said. Both sets of Iniri eyes turned to my direction, like they had both forgotten I was there. "How do you normally deal with it? Do you fight it, or just hide from it? How often does it come?"

Harry blinked at me slowly, pensively, while Dancer just looked at me with an expression that said he had no idea what I was saying. "It can not breach rock, or the Master Trees of Old we retreat to." Harry said slowly. "It hunts for easy prey, ground dwellers who can not quickly hide. We know that there are water holes that are very deep that run under the world. This is where he and his kin live for most of the time. They hunt, fill themselves, then retreat to the depths of the word until they hunger again. They don't always use the same waterways, and each season new holes appear and others vanish."

"Why are you telling this?" Dancer hissed. Harry just held up an hand and Dancer was silent.

"But you just said he can't move through rock." I decided to also ignore Dancer for the moment.

"That is what we are told."

That had me wondering if that was just a desperate hope on the Iniri's part, or if TOWR actually said so. I moved to sit in front of the computer and Harry followed me. Dancer reluctantly followed him. I brought up a search for sink holes back Earthside. "I wonder if they actually do dig, or if changes in the water tables -or even planetary plate siftings- create new sink holes for them to play in?"

"It's hard to know." Harry said looking over my shoulder at the information.

"Any idea how many there are?"

"No. But the one we met was bigger than than I remember the one I... lost my..." He started breathing quickly. I turned in the chair and pulled him into my arms to hug him. He grunted as he spilled against my body, at first tense, but then relaxing and returning my embrace. He shifted to sit on my lap and lean against me.

"You're ok." I whispered in his ear, then set my chin on his shoulder to look back at the screen. "Can we kill it?" I wasn't asking for permission, rather if it would be possible.

Harry snorted. "Is that your answer to every problem?"

I shrugged. "Yeah, pretty much." I understood that when he said "your", he was talking about my people. "Especially if it's edible." I added. Harry burst out into laughter that held a tinge of horror to it.

"That is disgusting!" he laughed.

"It's true. It's what we did with our dinosaurs."

He stopped laughing, and turned to look up at at me with wide eyes. "Really?"

I had to shrug. "Well, really, I don't know. We've not had dinosaurs for so long, nobody really knows what happened to them. But seriously, if I had a monster kridder eating my people, I would want to hunt the damned thing down and eat it instead."

Harry tilted his head to the side to ponder. "It probably would feed many, many beings." He agreed.

"There's something wrong with you." Dancer interrupted. We both turned to look at that distressed pale face. "Talk of eating that filthy creature of the deep... it's blood will infect you with the evil it contains! It's impossible to piece it's hide, and even if it were possible, to spill it's blood would curse us all!"

"Is that what you really believe?" I asked.

"For generations we have merely hid." Harry answered, his eyes trailed over to where I had hung my belt and my weapon on the wall. "Perhaps if we had the technology to defend ourselves, things would be different."

"I don't know if we DO." I turned my eyes back to Dancer who was getting more and more agitated. "What does The One Who Remembers say about it?"

Harry blinked, then shrugged. "I don't think anyone has actually asked about it."

"Do you think he even KNOWS it's doing this? Does he even CARE?"

Again Harry shrugged. I sighed. "I don't know if we really can do anything about this yet, but if this thing is something that is killing your people, then something needs to be done. How about you show your sibling around the garden deck, I will go see if I can round up Ford and my guys and we will see what we can come up with?"

Harry grinned at me, then was dragging his protesting sibling out the door by the arm. Once the door was closed behind them I ran my hand through my own hair in frustration before fortifying myself. First things first. I needed to find Ford. If we were going to go to war, I sure as hell wanted as much information about the enemy as possible.