"My paws trembled as I rummaged for the tranquilizer. Once I found it, I read the instructions out loud, just to be sure. I was so upset that I didn't trust myself to be able to follow the simplest of directions. Finally, I clenched my paw around it and hopped toward the loading ramp as fast as I could. This was my craziest race against time I had ever done, hoping every second that Hopmeric wouldn't get spooked and run off into the woods. Once I reached the ramp, I saw Molly on the hover-stand with the veg cart in tow and Hopmeric still grazing on something. Maybe it was cabbage, but now I'm not sure because his back was turned toward me. I stopped as softly as I could and immediately aimed at his hind leg. I took a breath and released the charge. The dart almost missed him. Hopmeric got startled and became frantic, trying to reach the spot where the shot went in, desperately trying to reach it with his mouf. Then he tried to claw at it, but that didn't help either. At last, he jumped off the cart, tried to run, took one hop and wobbled, trying to keep his balance. He took another hop and fell. He kept moving his front paws as if he was still trying to steady himself and, after a moment, became still.
I heard Abby in full, heavy gallop behind me. She carried a blanket and a small duffel bag, passed me, and went right by Molly and Pancake, who stood frozen still with confused looks on their moufs. Abby motioned to them to follow her. I tried to catch up as fast as I could. Joey jumped off his loading dolly and was rushing in to help with—something, anything. He had a frazzled and disoriented look about him, and he could not tell what was happening. I yelled to Joye, 'It's OK! Keep a lookout with Ava and Penny!' It seemed his body understood what I said and tried to turn away from all the commotion, but his eyes had a hard time letting go of the bun pile that surrounded the knocked-out Hopmeric.
By the time I caught up with Abby and the others, they had Hopmeric placed on a blanket. 'OK, let's get him up the ramp and into the quarantine lock. We all need full decontamination, including him!' said Abby, pointing to Hopmeric. 'Ava, Penny, Joey! Bring it inside!' commanded Molly from the hover-stand. Molly, Pancake, Abby and I each grabbed a corner of the blanket with the hare, and we carried him toward the ship and then up the loading ramp. We laid Hopmeric on the floor and waited for everybunny to get back in. Once Joey ran back out and brought inside the hover-stand, we closed the ship. We got into the decontamination lock and began to disinfect bun another. On the other side of the airlock-grade door, the loading bay was getting baked with ultraviolet radiation and deadly gases, hoping to kill off any microorganisms. I'm not sure there was any point to that since we've been going in and out of the ship for days now, so the entire vessel needed a good scrub.
But I know what worried Abby. We had made contact with a local native. Even if we did not get infected by anything Hopmeric carried, the opposite might not have been true. And if he had no immunity to our bugs, neither would his kin.
The scrub felt like it lasted for an eternity. Once we were as clean as we could get, we waited for the bio-scan to complete and give us the 'all clear.' But instead of getting the green light we got the yellow one, and the door to the ship would not open. Abby went up to read the console and after a moment said, '... the thing is sensing a bacterial infection. Did we miss something?' She looked at us puzzled. 'Oh, my!' Pancake exclaimed suddenly and turned to Hopmeric. She picked up his, big right foot and looked at his ankle. She put her paw on the ankle joint and felt it, 'Look, Abby, at first I thought nothing of it.' Abby looked at the enlargement and felt it; then she squeezed it a little. The enlargement popped open! Blood and yellow pus oozed out from Hopmeric's leg. Abby felt around the wound and grimaced suddenly. After another moment she pulled out something sharp from the injury, a thorn.
Pancake handed us wash wipes, and herself tried to clean up the wound. Abby got up and went back to the console. She confirmed the cause of the alert and entered a manual override command to open the door. 'Well, let's get him to the infirmary,' said Pancake. The infirmary wasn't any bigger than a closet, but you could handle some small emergencies there. We lifted the blanket with Hopmeric and placed him on the table. Abby kept looking at him and kept wiping her paws nervously. She looked like she was just trying to tear out the fur from her limb and Pancake touched her on the shoulder to stop the fidgeting.
'Well, let's get the solution ready, you're not just gonna stand there a let him die, are you?' snapped Molly. We all became even more uneasy. 'If we... help him ... we'll alter the entire ecosystem of the planet, you understand,' Abby slowly measured out her words. 'I was gonna say I don't care, but I do. I do care very much, so be it!' Molly continued.
Whether or not we had the right to interfere on such a scale in the course of life in this place is a whole different discussion. In the end, everything came down to the fact that we like the guy. And we only saw the good that could come out of our intervention. We picked a side and put our paw on the scale. Molly pressed it with all her, tiny, ferocious might.
Abby and Pancake prepared Hopmeric for the treatment, and I helped Molly ready the Democrythera solution."
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