“Have you heard the news Eighth Sister,” Fourth Cousin demanded as she came skittering around the abrupt ninety degree corner of the base.
Eighth Sister flared her frill in warning a moment too late as Fourth Cousin smacked her joint against the wooden beams with a sickening cracking sound. Fourth Cousin’s long, luxurious frill clamped down around her neck and shoulders, the pretty turquoise colors of joyful excitement on her membrane fading to dull gray as the pain reached her primary processing nodes. Eighth Sister did bother scolding her hivemate for her carelessness, the cousin was barely old enough to have molted her legs more than once. It wasn’t the place of an Eighth Sister to question the wisdom of three mothers and two Grandmothers but for the life of her she couldn’t see why they had sent this pretty little bud out for her required civil service at all, let alone so early in her life. With dozens of elder sisters and cousins, and even more than one brother, out doing their duty for the community at large a cousin who might have been a second sister in her own right was really better suited to playing with the petals in her father’s garden than braving the dangers of the galaxy at large.
“It does hurt,” Fourth Cousin managed to click out in Mother as Eighth Sister examined the damaged joint.
“It know it does my green one,” Eighth Sister clicked softly back. “Just stay still.”
“I think I can walk to the medical ward,” Fourth Cousin said, as she tried to stand from where she had slid down against the wall.
“Do not bother,” Eighth Sister said, letting her antenna curl in amusement. “You would not want to make the humans feel useless would you? I’ve already radioed for one.”
“Why would my walking to the medical ward make a human feel useless?” Fourth Cousin asked.
Her pain tight antenna relaxed a bit at the curious statement, and Eighth Sister took that as a good sign. It helped distract them both from the fact that interstitial fluid was leaking out of her damaged joint.
“What is the point of having the base crawling with giant mammals who love nothing better than carrying people around if you don’t let them carry you around when it is useful?” Eighth Sister asked, quirking her mandibles in wry amusement.
“Do they really enjoy lifting and carrying people all that much?” Fourth Cousin asked even as her proboscis lolled out of her mandibles.
“They don’t string their young you know,” Eighth Sister said.
“They don’t?” Fourth Cousin demanded, the shock of that statement actually putting some color back into her frill.
“No,” Eight’s Sister assured her. “They carry them.”
Fourth Cousin’s charmingly wide set eyes sparkled with fascination and Eighth Sister couldn’t help smiling. The home gossip was true enough. Fourth Cousin could easily lure in some second or third brother from even the best of hives with those eyes. Her pleasant musings and unease were both cut short by the sound of pounding footfalls as the requested human came rushing around the corner, pulling his massive form up just short of them and quickly darting his bright bu tiny binocular eyes over them.
“What do you need?” he asked of neither or both of them.
“I seem to require a trip to the medical ward,” Fourth Cousin said, gesturing at her damaged joint. “Would you carry me? I think I can walk but my sister is very overprotective of us younger cousins as you can see.”
The human gave a laugh and exposed the blunt serrations of his mandible to them.
“Sisters can be like that,” he said with a nod as he bent down and following Eighth Sister’s instructions formed a couch with his arms and tenderly lifted Fourth Cousin.
“Do you have sisters?” Fourth Cousin asked as they started to move down the corridor.
“Three,” the human said, “I’m the oldest.”
Fourth Cousin clicked in approbation at the robust little hive.
“But how do you know what older sisters do?” she asked.
“I’ve got five older cousins,” he explained.
“In your father’s garden?” Fourth Cousin asked.
The human glanced curiously at Eighth Sister for explanation.
“Did you share the same living conditions or live separately,” she explained, as Fourth Cousin’s frill pulsed alternately between apology, gratitude, and flashes of pain.
“Oh,” the human said with a nod, “separately. They were the next province over. We’d visit a couple times a year.”
The human kept Fourth Cousin distracted with friendly chat but was distracted when they had to navigate a series of raised support struts that extended above the floor of the base. Eighth Sister saw the pain dominating again in her cousin’s frill and took up the conversation line that had been dropped in the corridor.
“What was the news you wanted to tell me?” Eighth Sister asked.
The question effectively distracted Fourth Cousin as her frill flushed with ensnarement, but she spoke with a commendably Motherly courage in the common language the human understood.
“That the new human as brought a musical instrument with him and is said to be quite skilled in playing,” Fourth Cousin said quietly.
The human holding her glanced down with a pleased smile and Eighth Sister easily concluded that this was the new human of which she spoke.
“Do you like music?” he asked.
“I do,” Fourth Cousin admitted, “and I have heard that this acoustic guitar music is very safe.”
“Safe as can be,” the human agreed. “Would you like me to drop by and play you a little something Earth while your leg’s in the mender pod?”
“This injury hardly requires a mender pod,” Fourth Cousin said, “but I would welcome some music.”
“It’s a date then,” the human said. “I’ll check my off hours with your sleep schedule and see what’s what.”
They arrived at the medical ward and were quickly ushered in by a Third Sister who seemed positively delighted to have a non-human injury for once. The human gently set Fourth Cousin on the bed and strode off with a promise to return with his instrument in due time. Eighth Sister noted that Fourth Cousin watched him go with focused curiosity.
“What focuses you Fourth Cousin?” Eighth Sister asked.
“When I approached you in the corridor,” Fourth Cousin stated, “I was planning on asking your aid in convincing that First Brother to share his music. I had been told that he was quite shy and very hesitant to share his skill.”
“Perhaps your source of information was inaccurate,” Eighth Sister suggested.
“I do not think so,” Fourth Cousin said.
“If I might suggest,” the Third Sister medic offered.
Eighth Sister and Fourth Cousin twitched their antenna respectfully at her.
“Humans have distinctly different rules for injured cadre-mates than healthy cadre-mates,” the Third Sister said. “Since you are injured the human is all but socially required to offer you the entertainment of his music.”
“Curious,” Eighth Sister said. “Convenient, but curious.”
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