“And so as each-what was the word you used?” Rollsacross asked. “Oh yes, after each pass, you simply take the meaning of the existing pattering into consideration and begin the next missive from there.”
The Undulate dipped his appendages in the tray of water under him and then shuffled forward to demonstrate. He moved across the translucent film that was already marked with spiraling tracks. He stopped and pivoted, then gave a sideways shimmy before arching up and off of the film. The new marks were rapidly darkening where he had touched the film and the gathered students of language moved forward to watch the new words form.
Three Shatar Sisters clustered together so they could touch antennas without disturbing the others. Their triangular heads tilted this way and that and their neck frills pulsed with interest. Two Gathering were sniffing at the edge of the film suspiciously. Or rather the Undulate admitted to himself, everything the stiff reptilians did looked suspicious to one of his kind. The two Trisk professors certainly found them flexible enough. The eight appendage professors were happily perched on the broad heads of the reptilians for a better view of the drying document. A flight of Winged hovered over everyone’s heads, a constant cloud of movement.
“Wasn’t Human First Brother going to be here?” one of the Shatar asked, twisting her head to the side and flicking her antenna at the door.
“He was,” another answered. “I wonder if he forgot?”
“Human Friend Obecny is not the type to forget an engagement,” one of the Trisk observed.
There was a rolling trill of assent from the flight of Winged overhead and the two gathering gave one of the wide variety of grunts that indicated they had no opinion on the matter. However the conversation was derailed by a massive thump that shook the door and the wall it was attached to. The Shatar stiffened and their frills snapped to full extension. The Winged flight swirled away from that wall before taking up a hold position facing the door with dozens of teeth gleaming in snarls. The Trisk gripped the heads of the Gathering as they heaved huge sighs and muttered something about lumbering mammals.
Rollsacross noted that the reptilians’ assessment was correct as the human in question fell through the opening doors with far more erratic velocity than was strictly usual for him. He was grasping a thermal canister in one hand which he brought up to his mouth in a mammalian hydration movement before he righted himself and reduced his swaying to a level that humans considered ‘still’.
“Ahoj,” he greeted the room in general with a swing of his hydration canister. “Not too late am I?”
“I have just finished the first applied layer Human Friend Obecny,” Rollsacross said. “I am afraid you missed the explanation and the first application.”
“Sorry,” the human said his mouth gaping in a yawn. “I over slept. My alarm was buzzing for a solid hour before it penetrated my skull?”
“Did you not achieve proper sleep last night?” the Shatar, the medic asked.
“Not a bit of it,” the human replied as he swayed closer to the three cousins.
His feet seemed to drag along behind his center of mass as he re-positioned himself in the room.
“Was that a negative or a positive response?” The cousin pressed.
“My babička called,” he explained. “One of the cousins is acting up over in the Grister sector and she wanted to let me know in case he swung though this system. We were talking for hours. You know how worried babičkas get.”
The Shatar clicked in sympathy until Rollsacross shuffled back over to the tray of water and began explaining the increased difficulty of creating meaning on the third pass over a document. The class fell silent and observed. Rollsacross finished the pass and invited them to examine it. There was the usual muttering until Human Friend Obecny suddenly failed to correct one of his forward sways and caught himself heavily on the table surface. The collected linguists stared at him curiously until the Shatar medic suddenly clicked in alarm.
“Why are your irises oscillating like that?” she demanded, skittering forward to peer up into his eyes.
“This writing,” the human said in an odd hollow tone. “It’s...it’s...I think it’s giving me a stroke!”
The medic’s frill flushed with horror and she grabbed his arm, clicking at him earnestly to follow her to the medical bay. The human obeyed after a moment but seemed unable to tear his eyes away from the drying Undulate script. When the door closed behind them one of the Gathering reached up to paw at his eye.
“The human was simply being facetious, right?” he asked.
“Of course,” the leader of the Winged flight snapped out. “A human would not have a stroke from simply looking at foreign script.”
“That is my understanding,” Rollsacross agreed.
There was a long moment of silence before Rollsacross firmly brought their attention back to the lesson.
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.