LInda Bucklin ~ Echo 2

Shadowdancer Chapter 24

part of: Shadowdancer

by Carrie Radna

Frieda woke up, refreshed. Her insides were hollow. She called out, “I’m hungry!” 
There was not a beeper by her bed, so she had to take care of business her own way, hoping that her voice would be heard and understood by the nei-tas or whatever else was working within her station. Luckily, two of the nei-tas, Xuam and Mob heard Frieda’s cry on the hidden intercom. They rushed in from the waterwall, both delighted to see her awake at last.
“Well, how is our patient doing?” Xuam warmly inquired.
“I’m feeling better, but I’m famished,” Frieda said. Xuam looked at Mob with a twinkle in her eye.
“Seems that she’s finally getting her strength back,” she told Mob.
“A very good sign. I will take care of the food while you stay with her,” suggested Mob.
“A grand idea,” Xuam answered. With that, Mob left through the waterwall quickly, heading for the healing center’s kitchen. Frieda then asked, “Where’s Jeil? I haven’t seen her in ages.”
Xuam chuckled to herself. This one has a lot to learn about us, she thought. 
She said, “Um, she’s examinating another patient, a human scientist. Her toning capabilities have progressed her from trainee to fourth healer.” 
The De’aiîo’ean healers were divided into four levels of expertise and responsibility, with the first level being the highest, which was Kenjaon’s category. Most of the first healers were surgeons and team managers. Both Xuam and Mob were second healers, who generally dealt with patient care one-on one, like human doctors and nurses aiding in either group or private medical practices. They also had to instruct the third and fourth level healers. Thirds had more experience than the Fourths, plus they could use instruments. The Fourths only used toning to heal others in need. Each level deeply respected one another, and could work either in a team or solo with patients. 
Jeil was a special case. Not many could advance their standing as rapidly as Jeil had. But even with the unusual talent of using the voice, Jeil still had much training to go through. What happened next was a good example…
After Frieda’s comment, Jeil suddenly walked through the waterwall to see Frieda. But Frieda did not recognize Jeil at first. She only saw a strange De’aiîo’ean healer in the shape of a male.
“Frieda!” Jeil called out. 
Frieda became confused. She did not know this being, which made her instantly uncomfortable.
How did he know my name? Frieda wondered to herself. 
Xuam held her tongue, curious to see what would transpire next.
“Do you remember me?” Jeil asked Frieda, wondering why the girl didn’t recognize her.
“I’m afraid I don’t,” Frieda answered. Jeil tried again to jog the Frieda’s memory.
“I was the one who sang to you.”
“I’m sorry…it’s still not ringing a bell…I only remember a nei-ta holding my head trying to lull me to sleep…”
“Yes! It was I!” Jeil exclaimed, who was almost certain that she got it right this time. To his dismay, Frieda did not agree.
“No, it wasn’t. You’re a nei-to, not a nei-ta. Xuam, I hope that I didn’t get the titles mixed-up,” Frieda told her.
“You are correct. However – this is Jeil,” she informed her.
“He couldn’t be,” Frieda started to say, but Xuam interrupted.
“Yes, he is, at least in this particular instance. You see, Frieda, we De’aiîo’eans are a double sex and gender species.”
“That’s right,” Jeil interjected. We can transform ourselves from male to female at will. The only reason that I look male at this moment was I was toning to a human patient who was male. I became male in order to ease the patient’s tension, to make him feel more comfortable so that I and the other healers could administrator to our him in the best way possible.” 
Xuam smiled at Jeil. 
“That’s correct. But Jeil, you are still in your male form.”
“And that’s why Frieda couldn’t remember you from before…”
Slowly Jeil realized that he/she had forgotten to change back to female for Frieda’s benefit. He/she felt embarrassed.
“Oh…oh!!! I’m so sorry, Frieda! No wonder you couldn’t recognize me…I wholeheartedly apologize.” Jeil was mortified. 
Fortunately, Frieda had a great attitude about the situation. She was definitely learning a lot in her short stay in Wýl, which was much more that she had ever bargained for in her short lifetime. 
“Hey, don’t worry about it. At least now I know…how amazing. Xuam, could you change to a male as well?”
“Absolutely,” she answered. 
“And Mob?”
“Did someone mention my name?” a booming voice called out. All three turned their heads towards the source. Mob came out of the waterwall, carrying a huge coral-based tray of food Frieda had never seen before. Placing the tray on Frieda’s bed, Mob looked up at Jeil and shook her head.
“Jeil, why are you male right now?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize…”
“Well, now you do. Go and transform to female,” she ordered Jeil.
“I will…can I come back?”
“Of course, nyuifdad*!” Mob answered, softening her tone. 
“All right! I’m going!” Jeil left them to transform. Xuam made a sucking noise at Mob.**
“You should not be so hard on Jeil,” she told her. “He/she had the best intentions.”
“I know this. But she has much to learn still.” Mob explained. 
Frieda sighed.
“I guess I have a lot to learn as well if I’m going to be here longer, so I know how Jeil feels. So – what can we do?”
“Try to learn the right way as often as possible,” Mob commented.
All three nodded in agreement. 
Frieda’s stomach was calling to her again. She looked down at the feast on her lap, her mouth watering. 

*—nyuifdad = A term of negative endearment, like “Silly” or “Ninny.”
**—Since the De’aiîo’ race do not possess tongues as humans, the sucking noise (also giving them the ability to eat) is their equivalent of humans clucking their tongues when becoming annoyed.