“This is not up for discussion, Owen!” Jack snapped. “We do this my way.”
“And here I thought we lived in a democracy,” Owen snarked back, a sour expression on his face.
“We do, and I encourage my team to think for themselves and ask questions, but at the end of the day I’m still your boss; all decisions are ultimately mine to make. I’ve told you what to do, and I expect you to follow my orders to the letter. Is that understood?”
Owen scowled. “Just like that? You’re not even gonna listen to what your medical expert has to say?”
“I listened, but in this particular case your opinion isn’t relevant. You’ve never dealt with anything like this before and I have. Now get going.”
With a final glare at Jack, Owen stomped off, muttering something half under his breath about Jack being a bloody dictator who thought he knew everything better than the experts he’d hired.
Jack just sighed; why Owen had to pick this occasion to butt heads and try to assert himself he didn’t know, but it was the last thing the team needed right now. If the medic just followed his orders they’d all be fine, but if he didn’t… Suffice to say the result wouldn’t be pretty and someone would probably get hurt.
The alien they were looking for was an Althusian, one of a race of notoriously bad-tempered beings with no sense of humour and no understanding of sarcasm. They were a very literal people, borderline xenophobic, and with very rigid ideas of proper etiquette. They were also unsociable, preferring to keep to their own kind, and often their own family. The males especially had a massive superiority complex, seeing all other races as inferior, just a step up from animals.
This one had crash-landed his one-person spacecraft out at the Wenvoe Quarries and subsequently wandered into the nearby woods, perhaps seeking assistance, or merely sheltering from the persistent drizzle. Splatters of pinkish fluid in and around the small craft indicated he’d suffered some kind of injury, so between that and the fact that Althusians were one of the smaller galactic races, seldom growing to more than three and a half feet tall, he probably hadn’t gone too far.
The team spread out to search, keeping in touch over their comm. earpieces; their orders were to locate the injured alien but not to approach until Jack joined them, since he was the only one who knew the proper etiquette, and he could speak a little of the Althusian language as well as Galactic Standard.
Owen didn’t see why they should wait; what would it matter if he accidentally offended their visitor? It was injured and hardly in a position to complain. Wasn’t like they were dealing with an animal that needed to be tranquillised before it would be safe to approach; these whatever Jack called them were supposedly an advanced and civilised race. They had spaceships and the ability to travel to different planets; they must be intelligent enough to understand when someone was trying to help them.
Of course Owen had to be the one to find his patient, coming into a small clearing to see the Althusian slumped against a tree on the far side of a small stream. “There you are! Been lookin’ everywhere for you. Don’t go away, I’ll be right there.” He tapped his Bluetooth. “Found our friend; he’s not lookin’ too good, skin’s sort of greyish.”
Jack’s voice came through, loud in Owen’s ear. “That’s their normal colour, Owen. Stay where you are; we’re on our way. Do not approach for any reason.”
“Screw that. He’s injured; I’m not just gonna stand here while he bleeds out, I’m going to do what you pay me for,” the medic replied.
Ignoring Jack’s order, Owen clicked his headset off and jumped across the stream, striding towards his patient and dumping his medical bag down beside the Althusian.
“Right, let’s see what we’re dealing with.” He reached for the Althusian’s injured leg and the alien recoiled, hissing something in its own language, its face flushing a darker shade of grey. “Relax, I’m a doctor. I’m just going to examine that cut; it looks nasty.”
As he reached out again, the Althusian slapped at him with a sharp-clawed hand, leaving four parallel cuts across the back of Owen’s wrist.
“Ow! What the fuck did you do that for? Thought you were supposed to be civilised!”
The Althusian hissed at him again.
“Yeah? Well bite me!”
The rest of the team broke into a run when they heard Owen scream. Althusians apparently had very effective translation technology because when they arrived on the scene the injured alien had its teeth sunk deep into Owen’s hand and clearly had no intention of letting go.
“Get it off me!” Owen howled.
“What did you say to His Eminence?” Jack asked, glaring angrily at his medic. He didn’t wait for Owen’’s reply, instead dropping to one knee and bowing his head, speaking the Althusian’s hissing language in a deferential and conciliatory tone. The other members of the team also dropped to one knee, bowing their heads. After a couple of minutes, Owen’s hand was released from the alien’s jaws. Unsurprisingly he was bleeding profusely from four nasty puncture wounds caused by the Althusian’s four primary teeth at the front of its mouth. It was fortunate that Owen’s hand was too big to fit any further into the alien’s mouth since the secondary teeth towards the back of its jaw were sharp as razorblades and there were a lot more of them. He might easily have lost a few fingers.
“Look what that bloody thing did to my hand!”
“You only have yourself to blame, Owen. I told you not to approach His Eminence until I got here. If you’d followed my orders instead of thinking you knew best, this wouldn’t have happened.” Turning away from the medic, Jack addressed the alien again and listened politely before dispatching Tosh back to the downed ship to fetch the Althusian’s personal medical kit. When she returned, she was the one permitted to use the devices it contained to repair the gash on Osha Rugin’s leg, making all the appropriate gestures and speaking, through Jack, only to request the Osha, a title bestowed on only the highest ranking Althusians, move his leg into a position where she could more easily access the injury.
After more conversation with Jack, Osha Rugin generously permitted the use of the deep tissue repair unit on Owen’s hand, explaining that he had thought the biting must be some sort of primitive ritual unique to the human species. “If he did not wish to be bitten, why then did he instruct me to do so?”
Jack endeavoured to explain, but that only confused Rugin further.
“You are a very primitive and savage people.”
“We are a very young race and still have much to learn,” Jack replied.
“Indeed. I do not think I will recommend that others of the Great People come here. I suspect most of your people are not yet evolved enough for civilised discourse and the learning of proper behaviour, although you and your other mates are perhaps more evolved than that one. I would suggest he should be culled; he is most offensive.”
“He will be disciplined severely, Your Eminence.”
“I should think so.”
“With the assistance of this one,” Jack gestured to Tosh, “I shall now repair your ship. Will you require assistance back to where you landed?” It would have offended the Osha to intimate he hadn’t come down to earth by his own choice.
“I will be able to walk shortly,” the Osha replied. “These two may wait and guide me.” He gestured with a flick of his ears to Ianto and Gwen. “That one,” a dismissive flick in Owen’s general direction, “will be removed from my presence.”
Jack bowed low. “As you wish, Your Eminence. Owen, back to the SUV; wait for us there. Ianto, Gwen, stay here with His Eminence until his leg is healed enough that he can walk, then show him back to his ship. Tosh and I will get on with repairs.”
Ianto bowed to Osha Rugin, then to Jack. “As you command.” He nudged Gwen, who hurriedly copied him.
“Yeah, whatever.” Standing up and slinging the strap of his medical kit over his shoulder, Owen stomped off through the trees. “That’s the thanks I get for tryin’ to help.”
“Appalling manners.” Rugin sounded shocked even to Gwen, who didn’t understand Galactic Standard.
“Indeed, Your Eminence,” Ianto agreed, bowing again. “He is proving very resistant to training, but he is a very talented healer so we are unwilling to give up on him.”
“Talented healers are an asset to any family group,” Rugin agreed, mollified. “Perhaps in time he will learn his place in the hierarchy.”
“May your words reach the Great Being’s ear,” Ianto intoned solemnly.
The whole team was glad when a couple of hours later Rugin’s ship was fixed and he was able to leave. He hadn’t been the most pleasant visitor they’d ever had.
“Maybe in future when I give you direct orders you’ll actually consider following them,” Jack told Owen when they joined him in the SUV. “There’s a time for democratic discussion of tactics, and for doing things your own way, but today wasn’t it. I’ve dealt with Althusians before, their world is governed by an oligarchy and Rugin’s ship indicated he’s a member, the head of one of the highest-ranking families. Your behaviour would have been cause for execution on his world; you’re lucky he was relatively tolerant for his kind.”
“So you just sucked up to him,” Owen sneered.
“I showed him the respect he considers his due. Or did you want him to call in the battle fleet and wipe earth out of existence?”
“He could do that?”
“If he chose to.”
“But earth’s protected by that Shadow thingy! You said so yourself!”
“Not even the Shadow Proclamation could save us if the Althusians decided we were too dangerous to be allowed to live. They have a great deal of influence. Perhaps in future you’ll be less inclined to make a bad impression on our galactic neighbours.”
“Fine,” Owen grumbled. “Can we go home now?”
Jack smiled. “As you wish.”