The light was beginning to shift down into the soft,mid range oranges of evening by the time the mound of dirt was anywhere near flat. Third Sister shook out her frill in an attempt to dislodge the dust and grime that had collected there. She resisted the urge to lick off a particularly clingy bit of dirt in public and tried to focus on how the rest of the crew was coming along. The flight of Winged was circling the dig site taking readings. They were clearly flagging however. Only half of the flight members were maintaining the suggested elevation and the rest were exposing their teeth in a way that suggested they were about to forfeit their natural herbivore natures to start biting chunks out of the humans. The humans too were beginning to lag. Despite sensibly traveling along the ground they had been moving large ammounts of dirt with nothing but the simple levers and wheels that seemed to make up the base tool set of every network of humans no matter what their stated profession was.
“Third Sister?” Seventeen Trills fluttered over to her side and hovered there, not looking directly at her.
Third Sister was well aware that their sensory horns gave them essentially full circle awareness that was more accurate than simple sight but she still couldn’t help feeling a prickle of annoyance at apparently being ignored even as he requested her attention. She clicked a response in Mother out of irritation. At least the pesky little Hellbats could hear a reasonable range of sound.
“I think it might be time to rest our wings,” Seventeen Trills observed.
“I too have noticed that the extended physical labor has effected flight efficiency,” she noted. “I agree with your judgment.”
He snapped his beady black eyes around at her.
“Oh it’s not us I’m concerned about,” he said. “It’s the humans.”
“Why do you think that?” Third Sister asked, suddenly genuinely curious.
Ever since their first interactions the Winged had integrated the humans into their mythos as paragons of physical strength. She could not count the number of problems that arose medically because some Winged commander believed his humans to be near indestructible, and the humans were oddly loath to dissuade this idea. For a commander as inexperienced as Seventeen Trills to recognize human frailty in any form was something worth noting. However he seemed reluctant to speak. Another oddity that. He finally just gestured for her to follow him with his wing hook and led her around the corner of the structure they were erecting.
She saw what he was observing immediately. One of the larger humans, a Third Brother, if she remembered correctly was stopped dead in his tracks with the single-wheel mass transporter full of dirt and detritus blocking the main path. His head was tilted to the side and he was staring down at the handles of the device with a fascinated expression on his face. More importantly his skin was flushed with the pulsing of vessels trying to expel the excess mammalian heat of his body. His skin was venting copious amounts of water in an effort to evaporate away the energy.
“Third Brother?” She asked carefully as she approached him. “Are you well?”
To her growing concern he didn’t respond.
“Ranger!” Seventeen Trills snapped out. “What are you looking at?”
The human responded to that by raising his eyes to them, however the twin points didn’t focus on either of them.
“Isn’t it amazing?” he asked in a hushed tone.
“Isn’t what amazing?” Third Sister asked.
“The material sciences have advanced,” the Third Brother said with slow words, “but the basic design of the wheelbarrow has not changed in thousand of years!”
His gaze drifted over and past her frill before focusing on what the humans called the middle distance.
“Thousands!” he whispered, using only his breath to enunciated the sounds in hushed awe. “This is the same thing that our ancestors might have used thousands of years ago.”
Her frill snapped rigid with concern and Third Sister carefully stepped forward to touch the hot skin of the humans arm. Seventeen Trills fluttered around her giving out little distressed chirps of confusion.
“Do you need a nap Third Brother?” Third Sister asked in the softest tone her voice was capable of producing.
He slowly swiveled his head to face her and blinked.
“I think…” he said carefully. “I think maybe yes?”
“Seventeen Trills,” Third Sister said. “Call an end to the work day and please have the least tired of your wing escort the humans home.”
The human in front of them lifted the wheelbarrows handles and began pushing towards the transport before stopping and looking back at them with wonder in his eyes.
“I didn’t,” he began. “I mean I never experimented much as a kid you know? Is this what it’s like to be high?”
Third Sister stared at him in bewilderment until he smiled and started back up the path.
Thank you all so much for your updoots and feedback. It gives me the will to go on. Want to see more? Think about becoming a Patreon. Tea refuses to buy itself and the more time one has to spend on a day job the less time there is for befuddled aliens.