AN: Hello, citizens. This Sunday, in lieu of a new Endeavor, we’re posting part 2 of Do No Harm. Erris is still recovering from his excellent adventures at CitizenCon, but he will return to writing Endeavor soon! In the meantime, please enjoy the conclusion of Do No Harm.
Mari watched the Vanduul as it fitfully slept, while her co-workers toiled tirelessly over the injured in the rubble of the destroyed building. It had been an hour since she had put the monster under, and it had finally fallen asleep or unconscious; overwhelmed by the drug in its system. The choking black smoke from the more heavily bombed areas of the city had cleared somewhat, and from her higher vantage point atop the rubble of the destroyed building, she could look out on the devastation. Emergency ships flew over the top of burning buildings, spraying deluges of fire retardant. Military ships patrolled nearby, occasionally flitting away into space, no doubt to intercept enemy ships.
On the ground, it was chaos. People flitted from damaged building to building, and emergency crews were scattered across blocks and streets as they spread out to assist the civilians. Mari’s own group had split up, four doctors and nurses heading away to help another group of injured civilians. That left two doctors and four nurses, including Mari and Len, to keep watch over the group of a dozen or so badly injured survivors. They were mostly immobile, though a few were sitting up, their eyes vacant and hazed with painkillers.
Len crawled back up the pile of rubble, skirting a wide berth around the Vanduul, to stand next to Mari. “Is it…?”
“It’s sleeping… I think. That, or it’s dying from internal injuries. Or maybe the drugs are killing it because I overdosed it. I really don’t know. I almost feel like a veterinarian would be more suited to handling a creature so foreign. I was trained to help humans, not…” Mari trailed off, gesturing helplessly towards the Vanduul.
Len frowned. “Are… are you really upset that it might be dying?”
Mari was quiet, but she looked away. Len pointed slowly towards the Vanduul. “Do you know… do you understand how many people this thing might have killed? In this pile of rubble alone, there’s probably dozens of dead bodies, or people trapped and dying. That’s, at minimum, dozens of souls—human souls—that this thing has ended. Dozens of lives destroyed. Potential, lost. And you’re feeling—!”
“I don’t know how I feel, Len!” Mari said loudly. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. I was trained to do no harm. I was told that the ultimate failure that we as healthcare professionals can experience is to lose a patient under our care. The minute I decided to look into that cockpit, I had to make a choice. I had to choose if I was going to forsake my training and my morality and walk away from an injured being in need of aid, or if I was going to do my job.”
“Your job is to save people,” Len hissed.
“Are you saying that this bastard isn’t sentient? That it doesn’t feel pain? That it doesn’t have a mother, a family, a clan, or whatever passes for bonds in their race? What if we found a Banu that was injured, Len? Would you leave it to die, just because it isn’t a person by your standards?”
Len was silent, but his venomous expression spoke miles. Mari turned away from him, voice quiet. “I took this creature into my care. I accepted it as a patient. It could provide the military with valuable information, but even if it knew nothing, I wouldn’t do anything different. I won’t forsake it, not until somebody with more authority than you and I give me leave to do so. I have a duty. Why don’t you go back down there and do yours?”
Len stared at Mari for a moment, eyes narrow, before he turned away, climbing back down the rubble to the injured people below. Mari watched him leave, exhaling slowly as the tension drained from her. She leaned back, staring up at the sky, counting the pillars of smoke until they blended together in the haze.
The Vanduul moved suddenly, sitting up with something that sounded like a groan. Mari froze, staring at the Vanduul as it shook its head, both hands reaching up to rub at its eyes. With its face covered, the spell was broken, and Mari leapt forward, injector outstretched. She jabbed it in the thigh, sending another rush of drugs into the Vanduul’s system. The effect, however, was not instantaneous. The Vanduul jerked and tried to get to its feet, but stumbled, collapsing onto its side. It knelt awkwardly, roaring out something in an unintelligible language, and reached for its hip, to an empty holster. Its head snapped forward to regard Mari as she stood a few feet away. It snarled, reaching down to touch the small, bleeding puncture on its leg, hand traveling upward to the hardened gel closing its chest wound. It rushed forward towards Mari with a guttural exclamation. Mari pressed her back against the hull of the crashed ship, and as the Vanduul closed with her, she kicked out, hitting the Vanduul square in the chest. Her knee buckled as it absorbed the force of the Vanduul’s charge, and Mari twisted, sending the snarling creature to fall onto the rubble. It landed at an awkward angle and bounced once, rolling halfway down the rubble before stopping.
The vanduul rose with a grunt, standing shakily atop the rubble, and it stalked back up the mountainous rubble, eyes locked with Mari’s, murderous intent all too clear. Mari watched it approach, favoring one knee, her other throbbing with pain from absorbing the Vanduul’s charge. She wasn’t going to be able to run. The Vanduul stumbled once or twice, shaking it head with each step, the drugs beginning to take effect. Mari tried to estimate what would happen first as the Vanduul approached: would it pass out, or would it kill her, and then pass out?
The Vanduul reached her as she stumbled back over the rubble, grabbing her by the shirt and pulling her backwards, sending her tumbling onto her back. It crouched over her, its massive hand closing over her throat. The vanduul’s grip was incredible, the power behind it—even in its weakened state—beyond anything Mari had ever anticipated. She realized that she couldn’t breath, but more so, that she was already beginning to black out. It must have been cutting off the blood flow to her brain. The Vanduul leaned down, its face in hers, sneering victoriously as it spoke something in its harsh tongue.
The sneer froze suddenly, and the Vanduul’s eyes widened as its speech halted. It tried to speak again, but blood flowed over its lips and spattered Mari’s face. Mari clutched the Vanduul knife in both hands and drove it in deeper into the beings throat. It gurgled something, both hands reaching up to grip Mari’s own. Mari held onto the knife for dear life, but even bleeding out and drug-addled, the Vanduul was strong. It prised her grip from the knife and reeled back onto its knees, blood spurting from the its wound as it pulled the blade free. Mari recoiled away, waiting for the counter-blow that would end her life.
The Vanduul lifted the blade up and, after a trembling moment, pressed it to its forehead. Its eyes locked with Mari’s as its lifeblood poured down its chest, staining and covering its front, and spoke in a gurgling, guttural tongue; a rhythmic chant that grew softer with each moment. It grew still as the blood flowing from its wound slowed, its arms falling limply at its side and the knife falling with a clatter, though its knees remained locked and its back straight. It’s head finally lolled backwards, its dead gaze slipping away from Mari’s own.
Mari kept staring, even as Len and several other doctors and nurses rushed around her, their voices distant, as unintelligible as the Vanduul’s own. Len’s concerned face filled her view, snapping her out of her stupor. “Are you all right?”
Mari stared at him for a moment before breaking down into shaking sobs, clutching into his shirt. “Damn it! Damn it! Damn you, you bastard!”
Len held Mari at arms length, confusion writ large across his features. Mari ignored him, pressing beyond his arms to scream at the dead Vanduul. “You bastard! You dumb bastard! Why? What was it all for? Damn you! Damn you!”
Above them, emergency ships and military interceptors flew overhead, arriving at the scene to retrieve the survivors and search the rubble for signs of life. Smoke billowed as the fire crews began their work, covering the scene and obscuring everything in the haze