My Kingdom for a Gislestorchen

David E. Hughes

The blood on Yar Duk's feeler tentacles made the ping transporter difficult to grip. Yar Duk wished he had taken rudimentary instruction on the ping so he could control their destination, but it had never seemed important until now. What use did a physician have for a tool that could jump you around the galaxy? Now, unfortunately, he had the answer.

Yar Duk wrapped his lateral tentacles around the unconscious Prince Tam Yun and pressed the ping's center button. A flash of light erupted around them. The honor guards' bodies and the somiknife-wielding Taebor, his eyes blazing with anger and hatred, were gone.

Yar Duk and the prince appeared in a place unlike any Yar Duk had imagined. Huge buildings with flashing lights and signs lined a hard-surfaced travel area with fume-spewing transports rumbling by. Hundreds, no thousands, of bipedal carbon-based life forms wandered in and out of the buildings making a disturbing variety of vocalizations. Above him was blackness dotted with stars and a single moon.

Yar Duk carried the prince into a shadowed alley where he hoped the other life forms would not notice them. The prince's absorption membrane was barely vibrating and his carapace was moist to the touch. Seven curs! Ping travel had been harder on the prince than Yar Duk anticipated.

He removed his medi-computer from his kit and did a scan. The stab wound was no longer bleeding, but the somiknife had penetrated the young prince's gislestorchen. The prince would be fine for now, but another ping would kill him.

Several of the prince's eyes clicked open. "Doc? What happened?"

"The peace parlay was a trap. Three of the Taeborian emissaries were assassins. Your guards gave their lives to protect you, but one of the Taebor managed to get through. He stabbed you with a somiknife. I picked a ping and we ended up here."

The prince's membrane convulsed. "You honor me with your bravery."

In spite of himself, Yar Duk felt warm with pride.

"Where are we?" asked the prince.

Yar Duk wiped a smear of blood off the ping's display. "Las Vegas, Earth."

"Never heard of it," said the prince. "How do we get back home?"

"Ah, well, you see my prince I . . ." As a physician, Yar Duk should have been better at delivering bad news, but he'd never gotten the hang of it.

"That grim, huh?"

Yar Duk flapped an ocular tentacle. "The ping could take us back to the palace, but I don't know how to program it. Even if I could, I fear you wouldn't survive another trip."

"The ping isn't a problem. I can input a new destination. Are you sure I can't survive a trip? I don't feel that bad."

Yar Duk noticed an edge of pain in the prince's voice. But no fear. No, never fear.

"You've been stabbed in the gislestorchen," said Yar Duk. "It's no longer functioning. Without treatment it is . . . fatal."

"And the treatment?"

"A new gislestorchen."

An earthling walked into the alley, but stopped at the sight of Yar Duk and his patient.

It made a vocalization, and the translator on the prince's belt chirped into life. "What the hell?" it said.

"We mean you no harm," said Yar Duk and the translator relayed it. He reached two of his lateral tentacles and twisted them together. Perhaps the earthling would recognize the universal peace gesture.

"Stay back!" With a quick gesture, the earthling pulled a long, metallic instrument from a receptacle in his clothing.

"A somiknife!" shouted Yar Duk.

A burst of light enveloped the earthling, and it fell to the ground.

The prince laid down his blaster.

"Good shot, my prince," said Yar Duk. "This is obviously a hostile place."

"Was that really a somiknife?" asked the prince. "I couldn't see it very well."

Yar Duk slithered over to where the earthling had fallen. "I am ashamed, my prince. It was only a metallic communication device. It could not have pierced your carapace."

The prince waved a tentacle. "An understandable error. Anyhow, it is of no matter. I have only stunned it, and you need to examine one of them anyhow."

"I do?"

"Yes. See if the creature has something akin to a gislestorchen."

Yar Duk felt as though his membrane would stop vibrating altogether. "You can't be suggesting I implant alien tissue into you? The risks are--"

"Don't tell me," said the prince. "It would just be for the ping home. Besides, what choice do we have? Unless they have a gislestorchen bank somewhere around here."

Yar Duk, licking his eyes in resignation, activated his medi-computer. The prince had no way of knowing the astronomical odds against these bipedal life forms having an organ whose sole function was to remove waste from the blood.

When the medi-computer began chirping out its data, Yar Duk rumbled in surprise. The creatures were called "humans." Despite the disparities between the external appearances, the internal functioning of humans was remarkably similar to theirs. One small organ-no two identical organs-in humans functioned like a gislestorchen. The organs were far from a perfect fit, but a transplant might just be enough to get them home.

"We're in luck," said Yar Duk, pulling out a somiscapel. "This could work."

"Wait," said the prince. "What effect will it have on the earthling?" He gestured to the form sprawled on the ground in front of them.

Yar Duk gave a small lift to his lateral tentacles. "Human blood has poor coagulate properties, and they are prone to infection. The subject is unlikely to survive."

"I'm not doing it," said the prince. "Find another way."

"What? But you just said--"

"I'd hoped we could do it without killing an earthl . . . human," said the prince. He folded his lateral tentacles in front of him.

"But there's thousands of them, probably more." Yar Duk poked the human in the expanded lipid storage area in his midsection. "And I doubt he's a prince."

"I will not steal the life of another to save my own. It is not the Way of Yothen."

A cur's curse the prince's religious piety! But then Yar Duk retracted the thought. The prince's idealism and stubborn adherence to what was right made him who he was. Were the prince any different, Yar Duk may not be in this miserable corner of the galaxy playing the long odds he could save his future sovereign. If only Yar Duk could volunteer his own gislestorchen, but he could not perform surgery without it.

"Prince, I beg of you. If this human understood the sacrifice he was making, perhaps-"

"No," said the prince. "It would never understand, and I would never ask it of the human even if it did. But, perhaps, good doctor, you could find a way to save me and the human?"

He was demanding too much! It wasn't as if Yar Duk could walk into a human medical facility and start borrowing equipment-assuming he could figure out how to use it. Anyhow, they no doubt had their own medical personnel that could perform better than him in such a situation. Wait! That was it. He didn't need to know everything about how to do it, he just needed to make sure the human could survive the procedure. If Yar Duk could perform the procedure in a manner that would allow human medicine to save the creature, that should be enough to satisfy the prince's religious qualms.

"I may be able to do this, but I'll need some time and access to an Earth computer."

"Perhaps the human has a home nearby." The prince probed the human's garments and, with a note of triumph, produced a colorful envelope with a plastic card inside.

"What's that?" asked Yar Duk.

"The location of his abode-and a passkey. Look!" The envelope had lettering on it. The prince then pointed across an area of volcanic activity to one of the huge buildings, and the same lettering appeared atop the building. The translator translated the lettering as the word "Mirage."

"Uhhh," groaned the human.

"He's regaining awareness," said Yar Duk.

"Good," said the prince. "We'll need him." He drew his blaster.

The human's eyes opened.

"Help!" said the human. "Aliens . . . er . . . fire!"

"Quiet!" The prince gestured menacingly with his blaster and pointed at the human's vocal orifice with a tentacle. The creature quieted, apparently understanding the threat.

"What do you want?" asked the human. "You're not taking me to the mother ship for anal probes, are you? You've gotten Nevada confused with New Mexico!"

The prince pushed the human toward the Mirage building.

"Wait!" said Yar Duk. "You're not going to just slither into that building, are you? There must be thousands of humans in there. And if they see you holding the blaster, they may get the wrong idea."

"You have another suggestion?" asked the prince.

"No."

"Then it seems we must try our luck," said the prince.

As they got closer to the "Mirage," the human seemed less nervous. "You're taking me to my hotel? What, hoping to play the slots? Wait a sec, is this like, one of those prank TV shows-where's the camera? Come on, guys, the joke's up."

Lots of humans congregated around the building, and many of them stared at Yar Duk, the prince, and his captive, but, oddly enough, none moved to intercept. Many gestured with their lateral appendages, some made vocalizations that sounded like amusement, and others rapidly thumped the ends of their appendages together and made a popping sound. What strange and stupid creatures!

They went through the entrance portal into a huge, colorful room filled with plant life, furniture, and more humans-some wearing what looked like military uniforms.

Their captive stopped. "What now?"

"Take us to your home," said the prince.

"I live in LA," said the human.

The prince gestured with the envelope and passkey. "We found this on your person."

"Oh, my room. Look I really don't --"

"Would you prefer I kill you?" said the prince.

Yar Duk could tell the prince didn't mean it, but the human looked worried again.

"Fine, follow me," the creature said.

Ten minutes later, they stood in a small room. The human was even able to take them to an Earth version of a computer. The interface was difficult to understand, but, with the help of the translator, Yar Duk was finally able to find the information he needed.

"I need to find something called ice." said Yar Duk.

"Geez. It comes all the way from another planet and it wants ice. What are the odds?"

The prince pointed his blaster. "Ice," he said.

"There's an ice machine down the hall," said the human.

"Very good," said Yar Duk. "Fill this receptacle with ice."

"The bathtub? Why?" asked the human.

"Just do it," said Yar Duk.

~

Kevin Morgan awoke after an "only in Vegas" night in a bathtub filled with blood-covered ice. A phone sat on a table next to the tub. A note affixed to the wall in front of him read: "Do not move. Call 911. Thank you. The Prince is in your debt."

His head was pounding, and he had a vague memory of an alien creature trying to perform surgery on him with a sterilized stake knife.

"Shit," said Kevin. "I should have stopped at three martinis."