Kita'thalla Ch. 03byBowoodstock©
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The human was sitting at the entrance of the cave when she returned, staring up at the sky. He glanced at her as she hobbled over to sit at her usual spot by the wall, setting the crutches down next to her. She stared at the ground for a moment before speaking. "Umm..."
"I..." she stopped as she realized she didn't know his name. "Uh, what do you call yourself?"
He blinked. "What?"
"Your name. What is your name?"
"Yeah. You do have a name, don't you?"
"Yes, I have a name."
"Well then what is it?"
He looked at her for a moment before responding. "Eric. Eric Connor."
She looked at him, surprised. "That's it?"
"What do you mean by 'that's it?'"
"I mean, is that all? Are all human names so short?"
"What do you mean by short?"
She rolled her eyes. "Two words, each made of only two sounds. That's what I mean by short. How can a name like that mean anything?"
"Well, it's the name that I was given. Connor is my family name, and Eric is my name as an individual that I was given at birth."
"And your name doesn't change as you do?"
He looked at her completely confused. "Wait, what?"
She sighed. "Look...are you the same person now as when you were born?"
She threw her hands in the air. "Then why would you be called the same thing as when you were born? It makes no sense!"
He shrugged. "Well, I know that back on Earth, there are some cultures with names that change, but for the most part, humans don't change their names.
She shook her head. "I still say it doesn't make any sense."
"Oh really? Then what's yours?"
She raised an eyebrow. "You want to know my name?"
"I just gave you mine. On my planet it's polite to give someone your name if they've just given you theirs."
"Is that how it is?"
"Yeah, that's how it is."
She looked at him. "All right. I'll tell you my name. My name is Kita'thalla Oretho Carotho Shas'elo a ko Ketrali."
There was a moment of silence in the cave before Eric spoke. "Uh...wow. That sounds kind of impressive."
"It's meant to be. A ketral's name is a reflection of their achievements in life."
He looked at the cave floor. "Sounds like you've been through a lot"
"You have no idea."
He looked back up at her. "What do you mean?"
She remained stone silent. Eric stared at her for a moment before speaking again. "Okay...um, by the way, why the sudden interest in my name?"
She closed her eyes for a moment before looking at the ground. "It is because I want to thank you."
"Thank...me?" he said, taken somewhat aback. "Why?"
"Because you have been kind to me. Because, despite who I am and what I am, you still treat me like you would any other patient."
He shrugged "It's nothing. I'm just doing my job"
She shook her head. "No. It means everything. I have tried to kill you three times since running into you. Even though common sense says that you should shoot me as I sit here knowing what I am and what I have done, you stay and tend to my wounds, and are doing everything you can to see that I recover. You stand by your oath to treat anyone, to 'do no harm', as you said." She paused, then looked right at him. "You show more honor in that than many Ketrals that I know. That is worthy of thanks."
Looking into her eyes, he realized that she was being quite serious. He blinked before finally saying "Well...you're welcome then." He thought for a moment before saying "By the way...your name. No offense, but it's a little long for common use. Is there a shortened version that others usually call you by?"
She sighed, pushing her tail out of the way before lying back and thinking for a moment. "No. Not really. Actually, it's been a long time since anyone ever called me by name. Ever since I joined the military, I've always been called by rank."
Eric looked out the cave into the woods. "I see. Then do you mind if I call you...Kita?" He heard a sharp breath of air. If he had been looking at her, he would have seen the look of shock on her face before she rolled over to face away from him. He turned at the sound of movement. "Is something wrong with that name?" he asked.
"I suppose..." she said slowly, without turning around. "I should call you Eric, then?"
"Yeah. Eric is fine."
"Then Kita is fine."She replied, still not looking at him.
"Okay." He looked at her, concerned. "Is everything alright?"
"Yes...I'm okay. I'm just tired. I think I'm going to rest for a while. Maybe it's another side effect or something like that. I'll be okay"
"Alright. Let me know if you need anything."
He saw the back of her head nod. "Thank you...Eric."
Facing the wall of the cave, she was glad that he hadn't come over to check on her. She mentally berated herself. It was just a name. After all these years of war, of blood and violence, it shouldn't affect a soldier of her caliber, she told herself. So why then was she lying on the floor of a cave opposite from some human, hiding the tear streaks running down her face like some wounded cub?
She slept until the next morning. Waking up, she saw Eric sitting at the mouth of the cave, looking up at the sky. Testing her bad leg, she found that she was now stable enough to crawl on it. He glanced at her as she moved over to where he was sitting, before resuming his gaze up at the sky. "Good morning" he said.
She followed his line of sight up to the sky. "What's so interesting up there?" she asked, before noticing the flashes of light in the early morning sky. "Is that..."
"Yeah." He replied. "Seems like this system is looking to be a lot more important than it looks. Some of the warp flashes I've been seeing were large enough to belong to heavy capital ships...maybe even a few dreadnoughts."
She looked at him. "Dreadnought? Never heard of those before."
"It's what we call a ship whose sole purpose is to carry the heaviest guns in the fleet. The name means 'fears nothing'." He heard a snort and looked over at her. "What? Is something wrong with that?"
"No" she shook her head, looking mildly amused. "It's just funny that your ships have names that mean something, but your personal names don't."
He frowned at her. "Don't get started on that again. Besides, if it's so important that it means something, why don't you tell me what yours means?" He stopped as he saw her looking at the ground, no longer amused. "I'm...sorry, did I say something wrong?"
She shook her head. "I can tell you about the first part, but the rest..." she paused and he thought he saw anger cross her face for a moment. "The rest is complicated. You wouldn't understand it."
He shrugged. "I'm okay with that. So by the first part you mean..."
"Kita'thalla." She said. "It's more or less the name I was given at birth. Rather, at birth I was called Kitatha."
"Yes." She nodded. It became Kita'tha when I reached maturity."
"Kit... wait, isn't that the same?"
She shook her head. "No. Pay attention. Kita'THA. There's a separation. Female ketrals split their given name when they reach maturity. It represents..." she stopped in mid sentence, suddenly looking a little embarrassed.
"What?" he asked.
She closed her eyes and then opened them before responding. "It represents...the 'split' that occurs down the center of the female body, which becomes more obvious at maturity." Looking over at him and still seeing confusion, she closed her eyes and sighed. "Watch." She said.
She placed a finger on her forehead. She drew it down between her eyes, across the slight split in her upper lip, down her chin and the hollow of her throat. He gulped as the finger moved down to her cleavage and across the top she wore. It continued down the center of her abdominal muscles until she reached the waistband of the shorts she wore. She looked at him. "Do I need to go further?"
He shook his head. "No, I see what you mean." He looked off to the side for a moment before asking. "So...what does it mean? Your name I mean."
She looked at the sky. "On my home world, there were at one time vast regions of open plains. Grasslands. Our ancestors began their life there as a hunter society. In the summer the tall grass turns a vibrant golden color. My name is based off of the word for that color."
"I see." Eric said, and then looked at her. "It suits you."
She looked at him out the side of her eye. "What makes you say that?"
He shrugged. "What you've described sounds similar to a place on Earth. The African Savannah it's called. The grass there turns a golden color as well. A color that..." he paused before reaching out and bringing a finger about an inch away from her arm. "Is very close to this one right here, isn't it?"
She glanced down at his hand, wondering if he was actually going to touch her. She had no idea why it would mean anything after everything thus far, but for some reason...it would matter. A mental sigh of relief came as he dropped the hand, before she registered the question. She closed her eyes and nodded. "It is."
There was a silence before he spoke up again. "So...the last part of your name. Wasn't there... "He stopped his question as anger flashed across her face and she growled softly in the back of her throat.
"I'm sorry." He said tentatively. "Is that one of those...complicated things?"
Her expression softened. "In a way, it is." She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth before looking at him again. "I will tell you this. The last sound at the end is the part of my name that I earned when I became a warrior. That is all I will say about it."
He shrugged. "I won't pressure the matter if it will cause problems. Anyways...on a more important matter. When I said that I had two weeks of those food packs, I said that without the fact in mind that there are two of us eating."
She raised an eyebrow. "Which means?"
"Which means that we're only going to be eating once per day for it to last two weeks. Not the best news I know, but I figured I should let you know ahead of time."
She grimaced as her stomach rolled over slightly. "Well... at the very least we have water. Speaking of which..." she pushed the canteen across the cave floor towards him. It made a hollow skittering sound.
He glanced down at it. "Ah...Should probably go fill that up again." He grabbed it, stood up, and was about to leave the cave when he heard a soft metal clack and turned around. Kita had grabbed the crutches and had them braced in the position they had used the previous day for her to get up. She looked at him and shrugged. He stared at her for a moment, trying to find words in his mouth before relenting and holding out a hand to assist her. As she stood up he could have sworn he heard her mutter something that sounded like "thank you".
The walk through the forest, though relatively short, was awkwardly silent for the first few minutes before Eric spoke up. "So, I didn't get a chance to check your injury this morning. How does it feel? It seemed like it was healing unbelievably fast the last time I checked"
"Eh...actually" she replied. "I could almost put weight on it now"
He stopped and looked at her skeptically. "Stand on it? Only two days after the injury? I highly doubt that."
She sighed. Might as well tell him, he was going to figure it out in another day or so. "We Ketrals have an ability to regenerate. To heal injuries much faster than what most would consider normal. It may seem unlikely, but you'll see what I mean in a few days."
He blinked. "Well...it may not be that improbable. There are some creatures on my planet that can regenerate injuries as severe as lost limbs, but this rapidly? I've never heard of it occurring naturally." He turned to her and stopped when he saw the grim look on her face. "It's...not natural?"
She shook her head. "No. It isn't. About half a century ago, my people started experimenting with gene splicing. Some experiments were more successful than others, some were complete failures."
"The healing ability was one of the successes then."
She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them. "Yes. I suppose from your point of view it would be."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that success isn't always a simple matter of yes or no. Now, are we almost to the river yet?" Sensing that that particular conversation was over, he shook his head. "A little further....about 10 minutes"
"Minute... that's a measure of time, isn't it?
"Yes, it is"
"Well we've been walking for a while now. How long is a minute?"
"Its...well, not that long. Here, look at this" he showed her the timepiece on his wrist. "Each tick is one second, and a minute is made of 60 seconds"
She snorted. "Sixty? Who picked that number? Does anything you humans do make sense?"
"Oh don't get started on that again..."
By the time they got to the river, Eric was having a hard time thinking straight himself as Kita argued on the stupidity of using the shoe size of some long dead king as a measurement. When he pointed out they'd switched mainly to metric a century ago, and she asked what that was, he changed the subject by pointing out where they were.
She breathed a sigh of relief "It's about time! And you said this was a short distance?"
"Well...relatively speaking, and besides, aren't you the one who wanted to come along?"
"And what if I was? I still don't see how it's my fault if you didn't define 'short'"
"You never asked!"
"Right." she waved him off and looked at the stream. There was a small inlet off the side of the river, where the current was largely absent. She hobbled over and looked into the clear water. Not seeing anything that would try to make a meal out of her, she glanced back at Eric, who was refilling the canteen from the moving water a short distance down. She waited for him to stand before speaking.
He paused in his steps. "Yeah?"
"...Could you leave for a bit?"
He raised an eyebrow. "...Is this like before?"
She turned red at that memory. "Not quite. It's just...it's been a while since I've had clean water to wash in."
He realized what she was asking and frowned. "Ah...are you sure you'll be okay by yourself? This is a little different, now that we're dealing with water. I don't know how well you'd be able to swim as you are right now."
She gritted her teeth. Of course he wasn't going to simply say yes. "Look, the water in here isn't moving like the rest, and it's shallow enough that I can get back if there's a problem."
He looked at where she was standing, and thought about it for a moment. "I guess...alright. But I'm staying within ear shot in case there's a problem."
Ugh, better than nothing, she thought. "Fine, just go" she waved him off like she was swatting at an insect.
Watching him go off into the woods, she made sure he was well out of sight before reaching to undo the clasp behind her back.
Eric trudged through the underbrush, picking up deadwood while picking through his thoughts. If she'd been a human patient, things would be different. Both with the...issue yesterday, as well as this now. He was a medical expert, he'd seen everything before, that's what he'd always told patients who got bashful about their bodies. But he'd never before had a patient who could literally claw his face off if she got angry! He only let her have these allowances so that she'd be less inclined to kill him when she recovered, he told himself. But even if she was the enemy, he still didn't know if anything dangerous lived on this planet, and he knew he'd never forgive himself if something happened to her. She was possibly one of the most interesting women that he'd ever met and...
He stopped. Now THAT was a dangerous line of thought. Keep it professional, he reminded himself. But even as he tried to keep his mind in check, he looked around the clearing, seeing nothing but forest all around him. Every now and then something chirped or buzzed, the general kind of sounds that the smaller fauna on a planet made, but aside from that, it was dead silent. Suddenly, Eric felt very alone. He realized he'd probably have started to lose his mind by now if there hadn't been anyone to talk to, to keep company with. Even if most conversation was bickering and argumentative, he realized he was actually growing fond of their verbal duels.
His thoughts were interrupted by a faint yelp and splash behind him that made his stomach sink. He spun around. "Kita?!" he yelled, but there was no response. Shit. Shit. Shit. He realized that he'd dropped the wood and started running back in the direction of the river without even thinking about it. Despite dense undergrowth and protruding roots he was somehow running faster than he could recall without tripping on anything. As he burst through the edge of the forest he dimly wondered if the knife or pistols he carried would be able to do anything to a creature that could take down a ketral, but he wasn't just going to stand by and do nothing. He ran up to the edge of the short sloping embankment that bordered the river, stopping dead as what he saw made his heart skip a beat and his jaw drop open wordlessly.