Author : Bob Newbell

It was a typical night in the emergency department. I’d assigned a couple of medmechs to use the tissue menders on a pair of Loraxels who’d gotten into a bar fight with a Sniddan. The brawlers had apparently forgotten that Snidd Prime has three times the gravity of Loraxel and Sniddans have a correspondingly robust musculature. The psych screener was talking to a female Qooret who was depressed and suicidal because she missed the one-day mating season of her species and the next wasn’t due for almost 200 standard years. An Esmalt had checked himself in for a simple viral infection of his spiracles. He was a “frequent flyer” who always thought he was dying.

An ambulance ship called to say they were inbound with an alien with which they were totally unfamiliar. By the time the ambulance landed, the patient had been working with the ambulance’s translation computer for over an hour, speaking the words in his language of images the computer displayed. A very rudimentary translation matrix was now available.

I looked up his species. Human. Not much in the database. Warm-blooded vertebrates from GGC 17883/3. Their star didn’t even have a name in the stellar catalog, just a number. They only recently developed interstellar flight capability. Why do the bumpkins always wait until I’m on duty to come in?

“Hello. I’m Dr. Brij’krel. It looks like you’ve got some radiation poisoning. The paramedmechs uploaded your genome, labs, and diagnostic imaging scans on the flight here and I think our pharmacy can synthesize a nanoceutical that should repair the damage.”

The alien listened to the computer translate what I’d said. It looked around, confused. Then it nodded its head, a gesture of affirmation, I assumed.

“Where am I?” it asked.

“This is the Smyrnok Emergency Medical Station. We’re in orbit around the second planet of the Kippriana star system.”

“Tau Ceti,” said the alien. The computer, having nothing to offer by way of translation, repeated the words.

“I beg your pardon?”

“That is what we call this star. Tau Ceti.”


“I am Lieutenant Lee Chang of the Asian Coalition Aerospace Force. From the planet Earth.”

I nodded my head in acknowledgement, an awkward gesture, and reviewed the patient’s vital signs. Having no idea what constituted normal vascular pressure and temperature for its species, I simply input an order for a medmech to administer the radiation sickness treatment.

“I wish to speak to someone in charge,” the alien said. “I am a representative of the Asian Coalition and of the peoples and governments of Earth.”

My skin momentarily turned blue as I heard the translation. I quickly composed myself and it reverted to burnt orange. I felt sure the alien wouldn’t recognize my outward display of annoyance. Why do the rubes of the galaxy always want to turn an emergency department visit into a first contact encounter? Reminds me of that patient I saw in med school who tried to establish formal diplomatic relations for her homeworld with me while I was taking her pulse.

“The nanomachines have very nearly repaired the damage. I’ll have a medmech take care of your discharge shortly.”

“Dr. Brij’krel,” the computer said after translating what I’d told the alien, “the Loraxel patient in bed nine wants to leave against medical advice.”

My skin turned blue again and I didn’t care if it stayed that way. I started shuffling on tired tentacles toward bed nine.

“It is imperative I speak to a government representative!” said the human. “This is an historic meeting!”

“Discharge that patient,” I told a medmech.

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