by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler
Eril unfolded Kithri's micropore emergency blanket and spread out their meager supplies while she went in search of dead wood for a fire. He added the contents of his own pack to the pile and sat back to contemplate the situation. The food supply was meager, just the lunch leftovers and emergency rations, his and Kithri's. They could find water in the forest but they had no purification unit or anything to hunt with, except the force whip and stungun. Prudently, they should return to their own Stayman tomorrow. Given that he didn't know exactly how to get there, they ought to be trying right now instead of preparing for a camp-out.
Just one night won't hurt anything, Eril told himself, knowing full well that he was rationalizing. The truth was that he wanted the city to himself for a little longer, before it swarmed with Federation scientists.
Lennart hunkered down beside him, looked over the assembled gear and said something incomprehensible. Eril pointed to the variable-insulation fabric. "Blanket."
"Bee-ann." Lennart nodded and grinned.
"No, no, you're saying it all wrong. The word has an L and a K. Blan-ket. Say it, Blan-ket."
Kithri dropped a double armful of fallen wood next to them. It rattled like dry bones as it hit a patch of bare earth. She scowled. "Don't patronize him."
"I was just--"
"He's not an idiot. He knows what you mean." She brushed off her hands and set them on her hips.
"We've got to understand each other better," Eril said. "Since there's two of us and one of him, it makes more sense for him to learn our dialect."
"Sokay, pal," said Lennart. "Doanfi vermee. Telps f'yoo tak slow, buh nawso bad. I gih the gennel driff."
Kithri turned her back on both of them and began making the campfire.