Gladialis considered. She'd not known Kitten very long, and certainly they'd never brought the idea up. Not in the day and a half she'd known the little Terran. Maybe…no. This wasn't the time or the place.
"So…umm..you know that I grew up in an underground mining colony, yea?" When Gladialis nodded, Kitten continued. "So the first thing is that..umm…we all…umm…there really wasn't a lot of space. Like, we could dig out new chambers and rooms, but it was really hard, especially since then we needed to get supplies to create the rooms, run electrical wiring and such. So, as I'm sure you can imagine, there wasn't a lot of privacy, so we…stuff like that wasn't done in public. Plus my…my mom and…and dad are kinda rreeaallyy conservative and stuff. So…so there's that. Public displays of affection were…ummm..you can imagine."
‘Oh. Not jealous. Embarrassed‘, she thought. "Oh. Oh dear, I can sort of imagine, but not really. That sounds really hard, Kitten. Well, here things are totally different. While there are SOME things that aren't done in public, small displays like that are quite normal. In fact…oh. Here we go, here's our stop." Gladialis watched with some amusement as Kitten jumped off, and then waited for her to get off the tram before she followed.
The vets office was right next to an ice cream parlor, and Gladialis noted how Kitten brightened when she saw it. 'Well, she's definitely going to want a treat when we're done', she thought. The vets sign read, ' Dr. Mankurinania's Office. All welcome'.
Kitten followed Gladialis into the office, unsure what to expect. What she WASN'T expecting was this. The reception area was a comfortable space. Almost TOO comfortable. It looked scientifically calculated for maximum human familiarity, but also had some other sense of aesthetic, somehow conforming to the inherent and unconscious human expectations. Cushioned, straight backed chairs stood next to a few beanbags and one small bed-thing. A few potted plants that Kitten was fairly sure were just plants, a low coffee table with magazines. Gray and green tiled carpet, not too soft, but not uncomfortable. A rounded reception desk of chrome and glass, outfitted with a few holo-terminals. The entrance to the exam area was behind a glass wall, the walls painted a nice beige.
A Terran woman with a pixie cut of bright blue hair and a name tag that read 'Penny Royal, She/Her' sat at the desk, typing something on a terminal. She looked up, and smiled. "Can I help you?", she said.
"Gladialis Dulcisa, Fourth Bloom, and Kitten. We're here for her appointment", Gladialis said, and the receptionist nodded.
"You're about fifteen minutes early", she said as Kitten brightened, scanning her terminal. "And…I don't see you, Miss Kitten, in our records. Or…hmmm…hold on…I'm querying the OTNA… odd….they don't have much information about you either", she said, then looked up, confused. "No other aliases, nom-de guerre', false names, or identities? Not a pluribus either?", and frowned as the Terran shook her head. "Huh…sometimes we get a pluribus that doesn't know they're a pluribus. But you say you're a singlet, and you identify as such…hmmm…well, ok. In that case, I have some forms for you to fill out. Hold on", and she got up.
Kitten blushed and watched as she moved to a cabinet, pulled out some things, grabbed a clipboard and handed it to her. And then gasped as she saw the size. "Some forms? There's…", and she checked. "There's thirty forms!!! That's….what do I need all these forms for? I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be difficult, but thirty?"
The receptionist nodded. "Nineteen of those go to the OTNA, and had you been a floret, your Affini would have filled them out for you, or they would have been collated and corroborated by various sources at your intake. Six are for the Doc and are not only history questions but also some test questions, and five are for the local meetups and special interest groups." She paused, and thought. "Those last five are optional. But there's a lot of cool stuff going on, to be honest, and you'll be missing out if you don't fill them out."
Kitten took the forms, nodding. "Ummm…but this…won't it make me late for the appointment?", to which the receptionist grinned.
"No worries. Doc thought this might happen when they tried to look you up before and couldn't find any info. So they scheduled you some extra time. So don't worry about anything."
Kitten nodded. "Umm…there's some stuff I don't feel comfortable putting on paper. Is that ok?"
Penny nodded. "No worries, hon. If it's that important that the Doc needs to know, then he'll ask. Nothing to worry about. You just put down what you’re comfortable with."
Kitten nodded and took her small booklet of forms and sat down on the terran sized beanbag. She was tempted to ask Gladialis to help her, but she couldn't. There were things she didn't want to share, and didn't want to hear the compassion in Gladialis's voice when she answered those questions. Couldn't hear it, or she'd start crying. She didn't deserve it. She could already feel the need for her familiar form of release, but she couldn't. Not here, not now. Tongue between her teeth and foot tapping, she began to answer.
The questions were straightforward to begin with. Name, species, gender given at birth, gender identified with (which she left alone because just looking at it made her anxious), vaccinations. The usual intake stuff. She left her place of birth empty, since she wasn't sure the Affini knew about it, and she needed some more time before she fully trusted any of them. She didn’t mention that she was an ICU nurse, since she assumed that Sarthusea or Hesplex had mentioned it. She knew her medical history, guessed at her parents history, but then frowned as some of the questions got bizarre, and downright silly on another form. For example, "Would you eat a fruit from a tree if the leaves were curly and polka-dotted yellow?" Or another one: "given the choice between a shoe-horse and a sea-star, which one is magically delicious?"
She looked up at Gladialis, who was sitting across from her and working on her tablet. “Pssst…Gladialis”, she whispered, trying not to make a scene.
“Hmm?”, Gladialis said, looking up and then moving over to kneel in front of Kitten. “What’s wrong?”
“Some of these questions make no sense, Gladialis. What moves faster, a Rinan rocket powered tricycle or a beeple on class O’s? I’ve never met a beeple, and I have no idea what a class O is. How am I supposed to answer? And whats the max speed on a tricycle? How many rockets are there? How hot do they burn, what’s their max output?”, she asked, starting to get a bit upset and anxious. What was the point of giving her forms that she couldn’t fill out correctly? Why even give them to her if she didn’t have the background information to answer? Would giving the wrong answer tell someone that she was a feralist? Was it all some kind of trick? This was why she hated her psych classes in nursing school. It was never about which was the correct answer, it was which one was ‘correct-er’. And the questions themselves were far too vague to have solid, concrete answers. And to make matters worse, some of these questions had answers that needed clarification.
“Kitten, take a breath with me, ok?”, Gladialis said, seeing the Terran starting to panic. She took a deep breath, held it for a four count, then let it out. And then did it again. And again. “It’s ok. If you don’t know, then just don’t answer them, ok? Remember what Penny said. You can refuse to answer whatever you want, ok? Just answer the ones that you want to.” She smiled at Kitten, eyes twinkling. “I mean it. If the OTNA has an issue, they can come talk to you. More than likely they’ll come talk to me since I’m your guardian right now, and that’s ok. Your comfort means more to me than their paperwork.”, and she surprised herself by meaning it. If it bothered Kitten this much, then it wasn’t important. Certainly not testing questions that were meant to test her psychologically.
“Ummm…ok”, she said, swallowing and trying to breathe slowly. “Umm…thanks, Gladialis.”
“you’re very welcome, Kitten.” Gladialis sat back down, tapping on her own tablet but kept an ear focused on Kitten. The Terran girl blinked, and started answering questions again, every now and then snorting or shaking her head with a sigh. Another twenty minutes later, she nodded and stood, an odd cracking sound coming from her as she stretched. "Ummm…what just broke, Kitten?"
"Hmmm??", she asked, stretching with a satisfied groan.
"That cracking noise that just came from you?”, Gladialis asked.
“What…ohhhhhhh. That was me cracking my knuckles and my back. It's ok", she said, seeing Gladialis begin to look alarmed. "Its caused when a pocket of gas in a joint space stretches and pops. Its harmless, and I find it relaxing. Like…like a release of tension."
"Ahhhhh. I see", Gladialis said, and then watched as Kitten took the clipboard back to the desk. Handing the clipboard back, she turned and walked back, a slight look on her face. "Kitten? You look….what does that look mean?"
Kitten snickered. "Well, they ask me silly questions, I'll give silly answers. Like that one about the faster speed? I wrote that a terran space wizard with a light-plasma sword and a faulty respirator was faster. You know…Darth Vader."
"Darth who? A what?"
"Darth…you mean you've never heard of Star Wars?? Gladialis, I lived on those movies!! All twenty two of them!! Personally, I always thought the first ten were the best."
"Movies? You mean cinema? Hmmmmm", Gladialis said. "No, I've never seen them. Maybe that's a thought for another time?"
"Yea, I guess. They're really good..ummm…", and then Penny nodded.
"You can go in, Miss Kitten. Doc is waiting on ya."
Kitten swallowed hard, and nodded. "Ummm…", and she paused. Hearing someone, another Terran, say that…it was a whole new feeling. A good feeling, like someone saw her for the first time ever. "I'll…umm…i'll be out in a bit", she said and walked down the hall. Part of her wanted to have Gladialis there, as a safety net. Hadn't Gladialis already kept some of the other Affini away from her? But no, she could do this. She wasn't a floret or anything. She could do this.
She knocked on the door and a hearty "come on in!!" greeted her. She opened the door onto what looked like a regular doctors office. Exam table, lamp, chart of…well, it looked like the human body, a Rinan, and a blob of jelly that she didn't recognize. The doctor, white lab coat included, turned and smiled at her. Vines covered in some kind of needle waved at her, and in a cheery voice, the Doctor said, "Hi!! I'm the Doctor!!"
"Doctor who?", Kitten asked.
"No, that's someone else. I'm Doctor Mankurinania, 25th Bloom, He/Him. It's nice to meet you, Miss Kitten. Come in, close the door if you'd like." Shrewd eyes looked at Kitten, gauging, and then he smiled. "Or leave it open, if you would prefer it that way."
Kitten took a deep breath, deciding to leave it open. "Ummm Hi, Doctor Mankurinanianianiannia. Thanks for seeing me on short notice", as she walked in. She saw that the exam table had steps built into it, but she stood there by the desk awkwardly. Unsure if she should just get up onto the table, or maybe get Gladialis.
"Call me Doc, or Doctor Manku. The rest of it is a bit of a tongue twirler. Come in, come in!! Have a seat on the exam table and tell me what's going on." The doctor was tall, as Affini were, but covered in gorgeous, multicolored flowers and needles. Pinks and reds, each with a yellow and black core. Their “face” was a kindly looking mask, with a “beard” of moss hanging off his chin.
Kitten climbed up onto the table and sat there. "Ummm…I was….I was on Thor’s Hammer when it was captured. Things were…not good", she said. " I..umm..it's been a few years since I saw a doctor because I didn't have the credits." She saw the doctor nod sadly.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Miss. But you're here now, so let's give you the full checkup, ok? Make sure you're fit as a guitar."
"Umm…it's…Gladialis keeps telling me that theres no cost. But…it really has no cost? Be honest, Doc. And it's fit as a fiddle "
"Of course it is. And Gladialis Dulcisa is one thousand percent correct. You don't need to pay a thing, worry about healtchare credits, or even how to get your medications. The Compact takes care of everything", he said as he pulled out an Affini sized stethoscope from the pocket of his lab coat. "I'm going to start by listening to your lungs, Miss Kitten. Then i'm going to check your reflexes, and some routine bloodwork and a bodyscan. We can finish up by discussing any medications you need and I can answer your questions. Is that ok, Miss Kitten?"
Kitten nodded, suddenly nervous. "Umm…it's…", as she pictured needles, like the IV's she had used, and some sort of halo device wired to her head with needles in her brain. She suddenly saw the Affini from her nightmare, whispering. "Can…can Gladialis keep me company?", as her wristcuffs beeped.
"Oh, of course, Miss Kitten." He backed away from her, and turned to the tablet on his desk. "Penny, can you ask Gladialis Dulcisa to come in here, please?"
Within a moment Gladialis was striding through the door, her little half-skirt of vines flowing behind her. "Kitten? Is everything ok? What's wrong?", she asked, looking around. She itched to sweep Kitten up and hug her, soothe the anxious look off her face. But she couldn't.
"They…Doctor Manku wants to…to do some stuff. Invasive stuff. Can you…ummm…", and Kitten took a breath. "Do you mind just staying here and keeping me company?", she asked, blushing. She had wanted to say, 'make sure they don't steal my organs or kill me', but she was fairly certain that wouldn't happen. She hoped.
"Of course, Kitten. I'll stay right here, ok?", Gladialis said, putting her tablet away
Kitten nodded, taking a deep breath. And then another. Doctor Manku slipped in front of her, the hard metal of the stethoscope resting on his "ears." "Breathe in", and she took a deep breath. "Let it out", and she slowly let it out. "Good, and again", he said, moving the stethoscope to the next section. All fairly standard, and he was soon finished.
Pulling out a tiny reflex hammer, he smiled, gently tapping her limbs until he elicited the proper reflexes. And then it was time for the bloodwork and the scan. "Miss Kitten", he said, "I've noticed you're a bit anxious. So…instead of giving you some xenodrugs to help, which you indicated on your form that you’d prefer to avoid, I'd like to do something else." He turned, and after rummaging on his desk, pulled out two three pronged forks. Giant forks, the kind that you could spit a person on.
"Ummmm, what are those?", Kitten asked nervously as her cuffs beeped again..
"Well, these are…I’d guess you can call them tuning forks. These particular ones vibrate at a specific set of frequencies and use binaural modulations and ossifous transmission to cause a dissociative state. So you won't feel a thing, and you'll wake up with no memory of the procedure. It’s completely safe, and is a good alternative to Xenodrugs. Terran drugs…well, for something like this I don’t recommend them. Nasty little things, where you have to monitor vitals, creatnine clearance, carbon dioxide clearance, preload and all sorts of things. This is easier.”
Kitten had never seen or heard of anything at all like that. Tuning forks for a procedure?? "Umm…i..I don't know", as she turned to Gladialis. "I don't….does it work?"
Gladialis nodded. "As far as all the reviews have gone, Doctor Mankurinania knows his craft. How about this, Kitten? Let him try, and if you remember anything about the procedure, or the forks don't work, we'll leave and we won't do a thing else. Ok?"
"Perfect!!", the Doctor said. He smiled at her, and approached her. "Lay down, if you please, Miss Kitten." He didn't touch her, but waited until she was comfortable before he moved. Striking the forks on an edge of the bed, they both produced this odd tone…no. A set of tones, settling into this weird humming that made her squirm, kind of like the hair clippers the barber used to use. Like wires humming. "Now, close your eyes, Miss Kitten, and count to ten."
She blinked as the forks moved to either side of her head. "Wha–"
"--t should I feel?", she asked, suddenly blinking as the room was different. Not different, she realized, just her position had changed. She was now on a chair…no…. The table was now a reclining medical chair.
"Ahhh, Miss Kitten, good afternoon. Everything went well. How do you feel?"
"Wait…we're…that was it?", she asked as she sat up. Doctor Manku smiled and nodded. "That…you…well, shit", she said. "I..ummm", looking down, she saw that there was what looked like a flower on the pulse point of her left wrist. Grabbing it, she realized it was a bandage of some kind. Looking down, there was another on her stomach, and then a third on her chest.
"That's where the sensors were. These bandages should fall off on their own by tomorrow. Now would you like some water? A snack? Or should we just discuss your test results?"
"Ummm", she said, closing her mouth and running her tongue over her teeth. They felt dry, not a pleasant feeling. "Water, please?"
"Of course", the doctor said, and quickly brought a full cup over. Sipping it slowly, Kitten sat up, feeling slightly sore, but no more than what she'd usually feel after a twelve hour shift. Nodding, she took another sip, and then he handed her a small bag of what looked like crackers. “Here, try these. My floret made them. They’ve got rosemary and thyme, and a bit of salt, which is actually what you need.” Pulling one from the bag, she munched on it, and her face brightened. “These…umm…can you tell them thanks? These are really good.”
“I’m so glad you like them!!! I’ll tell them you said so. Let me know when you’re ready and we can go over your test results.”