Yiithrii'ah'aash straightened. Whereas his assistants resembled thick-bodied lemurs with emaciated extremities, the Slaasriithi ambassador was more akin to a tall, digitigrade gibbon with an ostrich neck. His pupilless mauve eyes, arrayed in equilateral triangles on each surface of his tetrahedral head, considered the larger human for a long moment. "We are in danger of detection."
Caine's pain didn't fade, but suddenly, he was only distantly aware of it. "Where are we?" He realized that his teeth had stopped chattering.
"At our destination: Turkh'saar. Or as your catalogues list it, system BD +56 2966."
Riordan started. "What's our situation?"
"We shall brief you as you recover. It is essential that your companions see that you are well."
"Well?" That's a pretty relative term right now... Caine's vision cleared enough to reveal his surroundings. He was in the navy-issue cryobank module, lined with the cold cells in which they had been conveyed from human space. He also realized that he was naked. "Ambassador, I should be wearing clothes when I rejoin my crew."
Even as he said it, one of Yiithrii'ah'aash's assistants—subtaxic members of the 'pastorae' taxon—laid a folded navy duty suit over Riordan's sweat-slick left forearm.
Flipping the unipiece garment open, Caine discovered the underwear he'd been hoping to find. The Slaasriithi were quite observant and were usually excellent at recalling and anticipating human customs, but found clothing particularly baffling, having no nudity taboos or particular need for covering. He began pulling on the regulation briefs, discovered they were a size too big as he scanned the rest of the module.
Shallow alcoves lined either bulkhead, each filled by a large white cold cell flanked by medical gear. The nine bays closest to Riordan's own were scenes of considerable activity. The lids of the cold cells were open. A sweat-shining human form was fumbling and shivering out of each high-tech sarcophagus, attended by clusters of the space-bred pastorae. One or two of his team began retching.
Alarmed, Caine began pulling on the lower half of the duty-suit at the same moment he started forward at a trot. "Are they okay?"
The pastorae did not exactly restrain him, but their hands slowed his progress enough that his concerned haste did not result in yet another fall. "Your companions are well, Caine Riordan. Be at ease." Yiithrii'ah'aash's voice was soothing, backed by a faint purr. "They had less concentrated therapeutic infusions than yourself. It was essential that we awaken and orient you first, that you may provide suitable guidance and leadership to them."
Riordan glanced at Melissa Sleeman, who, having recovered from her momentary nausea, discovered that she was staring at Peter Wu's short, nude body. She blinked. He blushed and stared back—which was the moment that Sleeman discovered that she herself was unclothed. She gasped in alarm.
"There are medical gowns in each alcove," Riordan mumbled to the ambassador. Yiithrii'ah'aash's sensor cluster fixed on him in what might have been quizzical regard. Caine suddenly recalled the confusion the term "gown" had occasioned the last time it was used in reference to medical garb. "I mean a cover, a wrap," he explicated.
"Ah. Yes, of course." Yiithrii'ah'aash sent a stream of liquid syllables down the length of the cryobank module, prompting quick, efficient searches by the pastorae. Pale blue gowns were promptly offered to the various humans, who fumbled them on with what seemed to be palsied hands. Lithe, muscular Dora Veriden cursed her unsteadiness in a sulphurous mix of Spanish and French profanities.
Although the Slaasriithi ambassador's familiarity with human idioms and customs was incomplete, he was evidently expert at reading Caine's pensive expressions. "I assure you there is no cause for concern. The cold cells are manufactured by your Commonwealth bloc and are quite reliable and robust. Also, we have been able to refine your reanimation cycle. Our modifications reduced the possibility of medical complications and enabled your accelerated return to awareness."
Caine exchanged nods with his almost fully dressed executive officer and friend, Bannor Rulaine, before turning back to Yiithrii'ah'aash. "When did you commence our reanimation?"
"Six hours ago."