Working in a hospital on a space station, you meet all types of patients. Some are huge and gentle, others are small and scary. Some have razor-sharp teeth, acid-filled saccules, radioactive giblets, and a variety of unusual and physiologically deadly features. Today Dr. Jim Jones would face the decidedly non-cuddly kind.
Dr. Jones was still relatively new to Space Hospital Betel-137. He had been top of his class at the All-Terra University and attended medical school at The Gandymede, with a focus in xenomedicine. SH B-137 was a plum assignment for him. It was along an unpopulated edge of the galaxy but on several scrumhole transportation routes, so there was a lot of action. It had a state-of-the-art robotic surgical suite, with a diverse staff from around the galaxy. Though he hadn't personally treated more than a few dozen different creatures, Jim knew how to access the galactic database and find out whatever he might need to know about the thousands of life forms that populated the galaxy.
Jim's feet were up on his desk and he was sipping his morning cup of stim-juice. He'd had a helpful session that morning with the hospital psychologist, Sunshine-7, the only other humanoid on the station. Jim was dealing with his failed marriage and estrangement from his children, and having someone to speak with, especially a Neo-Venusian (given their extremely developed sense of empathy), was key.
Suddenly, klaxons sounded. A ship had materialized out of deep space from a scrumhole and drifted toward the station. There was the grinding of metallo-crystal hulls, and then a huge electronuclear discharge left the station completely powerless. The usually noisy station was eerily silent. All robotic and computer resources were down. Jim quickly donned a spacesuit in the dark while there was still heat and oxygen. Many of his colleagues were dependent on hydraulics and vionics or other adaptive methods to exist in the carbon-based, oxygen-rich hospital environment. They were trapped incommunicado in a variety of emergency life-support modules. Only two crew members could function in unenhanced space suits: the psychologist and Jim Jones, Space Hospitalist, from good old Earth.
Wearing his bulky heated rig, Dr. Jones made his way to the crash site, while Sunshine-7 went from cabin to cabin calming the rest of the crew as best she could, despite the lack of communications. Afterward she headed to the command center to try to restart the power. Nothing was working; all systems were down from the discharge at the time of the crash.
The interloper ship was jammed into a hallway on the lower deck. Several bodies floated in the gravity-free vacuum, a grisly mix of the hospital crew and occupants of the crashed vessel. Among the electronic and organic carnage was a creature in an emergency capsule. It was purple-skinned, with a carapace studded with spikes, and about 1 meter tall, with masses of rippling musculature. It appeared to have evolved in a high-gravity environment. Jim hauled the small life-support capsule into the hold, and the hatch of the device popped open.
The being started to thrash wildly. It was screaming and banging the walls. He wanted to restrain it, but its ropy muscled spiked limbs and obvious strength made this seem like a bad idea. Jim wondered where it was from and what kind of atmosphere it would need. He had no clue what was wrong and no way to check. He went to find Sunshine-7 to see if she had any ideas.
As Jim took over trying to restart power, Sunshine-7 went to see the thrashing screaming lifeform. The violence was escalating. It seemed both agitated and despondent. Her exceptional empathic power was put to its toughest test. She approached it slowly, placing her hand along one of its arms. She could sense its pain, loneliness, and despair. The answer became clear to her. She explained her theory to Jim: This was a grief reaction.
Jim eventually got the power back on. A quick search revealed that the creature was a Vorg, a highly telepathic race in both communication and procreation. They were the only race that was impregnated in a psychokinetic manner, between pods of adults and receptive childbearers.
Jim determined that the adolescent Vorg had been traveling with one of its parents, who had been killed in the crash, and the acute disruption in their connection had elicited the violent reaction. In essence, he missed his mommies. Vorg high command was contacted, and his other parents were soon en route.
Later that day, Jim walked down the hallway, glad the disaster was over, gravity and life support were back on, and the thankful Vorgs were on their way. Life on a space hospital was never boring, but he was ready for some peace and quiet, a warm meal, and a long nap.
Suddenly the emergency klaxons sounded again …