"Flying Sparks", the prequel to "Dying Embers" will be heading off to my external editor soon.
When your crew has to dig a six foot deep hole in the snow every one of you will be thinking about burying a body. The conversation will then turn on how to best hide bodies. This is a rule of nature.
There are these memes going around the internet. There is a picture of something horrible, a giant spider, a thing with vaguely human form at the end of the hall, a crazed redneck with a chainsaw. The caption is something along the lines of, "You see this coming at you in the middle of the night when you are home alone."
Of course the idea is to generate an amusing, exaggerated reaction.
So why are there none for the equally amusing, exaggerated reactions people get when confronted with kawaii?
Here, I will start.
Humans are Weird – New Position
“But if the title simply means assistant morale officer-”
“With denotations of alien life forms,” Flipoff interjected.
Twistaround rotated his support appendages in irritation sending a rippling shrug along his core. He debated telling the arrogant officer what his name really translated to in the human dialects, and like every other time decided against it. He shifted the datapad in his gripping appendages and continued speaking.
“If that is the direct translation,” he said, “even with all associated denotations I don’t see the need to create a new named position. Just inform the crews that there needs to be two moral officers on any ship with a human or two, a master and a student.”
“Because,” Flipoff sent a wave of his appendages up in a signal that one usually used with fresh budlings who were asking too many questions about the color of algae fields, “this is not a learning position. The goal is for the new officer to know more about humans, at least in this one field than the chief moral officer.”
Twistaround tightened his appendages in stubborn perplexity.
“And you expect me to be an expert on this state of mind?” He demanded, feeling a little proud of knowing the last noun. Centralized nervous systems were so very fascinating.
“No,” Flipoff replied with a grim flick of an appendage. “You are simply an officer with more than a month of experience with human crews like all the others we contacted. We expect you to become the expert.”
“I have only been trained in observational psychology,” Twistaround observed uneasily. “I would hardly be prepared to react-”
“Good!” interrupted Flipoff. “Acting on your observations will fall to the moral officer. It is best you understand that going in.”
Twistaround fought down the offense that inspired in him. It was one thing when one of the fast land species interrupted a flowing conversation. It was quite another when an Undulate who knew better did it. Yes, there was more than a little cosmic irony in Flipoff’s name. Either that or he understood the connotations and chose his translation deliberately. However Twistaround did not sense that much of a sense of humor in the abrupt officer.
“So my job,” Twistaround began as he examined the description yet again, trying to gain relevant information from the many, many words, “is to observe the human populations, be it one or many, and report to the moral officer for correction any instance, or chance of, a state of mind that is really not known to exist in our people, except as a rare and usually fatal neurological condition, but that humans consider perfectly normal.”
“Correct,” Flipoff replied. “And to simplify the circumstance we are naming it with human sounds and written denotation precisely because it rarely affects other species either.”
“We are talking about a state of being where the human is suffering from a lack of sufficient threats,” Twistaround offered, certain that he had misconstrued the Trisk field report. The small skittering land aliens were perhaps the most like them in appearance despite being an aiming species but their different life goals made their writing especially hard to decipher.
“Indeed,” Flipoff confirmed with no modifiers.
Twistaround expanded his appendages to patiently wait for Flipoff to expand on this but no such clarification of how Twistaround had misunderstood the concept came. As mad as it sounded this was his new calling.
“I suppose,” he said uncertain of what was expected of him, “that it is very kind of the home pools to expend this many resources to secure the mental health of our new friends.”
“There is absolutely nothing altruistic about this move,” Flipoff said assuming a grim pose. “This is strictly for the safety of our crews who have to deal with humans.”
“Why must you be so dramatic?” Twistaround finally burst out, exasperated with the posturing of his superior. “What is the worst thing that could possibly happen if a highly skilled and highly trained human gets ‘bored’?”
First Week of Work
Day 1 Orientation
Boss *spots me thinking about doing the thing*: “Really Adams? Reeeaaaaly?”
Me: “You cannot possibly know what I am thinking.”
Boss *glares*: “I know exactly what you arethinking!”
Me *mutters*: “Well I would have failed anyway, so there!”
Day 2 Minor Tasks
Me: “So I will put all our names on the check in/checkout board.”
Boss: “Adams, I love you, but you are not putting your handwriting on anything that is visible to the public, let alone the central planning board we use to ensure safety.”
Me: “…I already drew the boundary lines with a ruler.”
Boss *pats my head*: “You drew very good boundary lines. Now go do something else.”
Day 3 Actual Work
Boss: “I need to train the new staff. Here are the keys to the truck. Go be productive. I don’t care where or how. You know what needs to be done.”
Me *at the top of my lungs*: “FREEDOM!”
Me: “…did I say that out loud?”
Boss: “…and keep your radio on.”
Me: “I will totally keep my radio on!”
Spoiler Alert. I did not keep the radio on.
Day 4: Routine
Me *forgets to bring enough water into the field*
Boss *the moment I walk in the door in the middle of the afternoon*: “Did you remember to eat lunch?”
Me *hiding my parched voice*: “I totally remembered to eat! Hours ago. I ate lots of lunch!”
Boss *suspiciously*: “Okay, good.”
Me *creeps towards sink*: “Yup, totally taking care of myself.”
The spring snows are melting off, leaving a tale of winter revealed on the surface.
A lot of twigs and lichen fell apparently.
Sometimes inspiration is found in a pile of moist bark and earth.
Inspiration or invertebrates, one of those.
Betty Adams is an up and coming author with a bent for science and Sci-fi.