“But have you not preformed the necessary amount of muscular contraction to maintain your functionality for the day?” Twistunder asked as he scampered after his friend.
Human Friend Mack was briskly striding around the airlock of the base searching for one particular personal radiations shield.
“Yeah I guess,” he answered absently. “Are you sure you haven’t seen my hat?”
“I have not,” Twistunder assured him. “However, Human Friend Rob’s radiation shield is there on the peg and it is the same size.”
Human Friend Mack rolled his eyes.
“I can’t take Rob’s hat Twist,” he said. “It’s just, ah!”
He flushed with triumph as he discovered the radiation shield he had been searching for under a thermal insulating garment.
“You ready to go Twist?” He asked.
“I am,” Twistunder confirmed. “May I mount now?”
“Sure thing,” Mack said and made as if to kneel down.
“No, no,” Twistunder said quickly. “I am not injured you know.”
Human Friend Mack smiled and remained standing as Twistunder climbed up the back of his legs and settled himself onto Mack’s shoulders. Mack opened the outer door and stepped out into the brilliant purple light of day. Mack slipped his ocular radiation shields over his eyes and began humming.
“Why does your confidence signaling increase when you put those on?” Twistunder asked as he traced the flushes of light up and down Human Friend Mack’s neck and scalp.
“Because these are very cool sunglasses,” Human Friend Mack explained as he picked up his particular stick from where the so called ‘walking sticks’ leaned against the outer wall of the bio-dome.
“I did not know they assisted with thermoregulation,” Twistunder said, very deliberately pitching his voice to mild innocence.
Human Friend Mack gave an explosive blast of air out of his nose and his stripes rippled with humor.
“I know you know what that word means,” he said in a scolding tone.
Meanwhile he had slipped from the more agile stride he used in enclosed spaces to the energy saving lope that he used to cover long distances.
“I do,” Twistunder admitted. “But you still haven’t answered my question.”
“What question?” Human Friend Mack asked between long deep breaths.
“Why are you out here expending calories when you have already gotten enough exercise today?” Twistunder asked again.
“I just felt like a walk,” Human Friend Mack replied. “The weather is good and it isn’t always.”
“What benefit do you get from this walk?” Twistunder asked. “There is our socialization of course but that could be better facilitated back at the nice warm couch, or in your room if you wished solitude.”
“It’s a walk,” Human Friend Mack said. “I mean just look at that will you?”
He swung his arm out to indicate the terrain around them. Twistunder studied it carefully. The ground rolled away in cold, dry hummocks. The surface was covered with a brittle pseudo-algae that glinted darkly purple in the harsh light from the triple stars over head. The silicone rich lifeform provided enough oxygen to make the planet barely habitable for the sentient species that had found it.
“I see the conditions that make this world a death trap,” Twistunder finally said, pulling closer to the comforting warmth of his friend.
“If it’s so bad why are you here in the first place?” Human Friend Mack asked with a laugh.
“The high joining determined that if you podlings decided to set up a colony here we at least needed a science outpost,” Twistunder replied. “We found it first after all.”
“Fair enough,” Human Friend Mack said with a shrug.
The slope of the ground increased and his stride shifted slightly to compensate. They were currently traveling along the path the humans’ feet had trampled out between the main base and the power generators. The Undulates could travel nowhere else under their own power. The local flora would lacerate their appendages dangerously if they tried without protective armor. Of course the same applied to the humans but they would not go out without their protective foot armor in any case.
Twistunder made a mental note to add the probability of lacerating ground foliage to the list of dangers they faced if the humans ever let them near Earth.
“But what is the purpose of this walk?” Twistunder pressed. “You are traveling too fast for exploration to be the goal.”
“It’s just a walk Twist,” he replied. “Fresh air-“
“We could open a window,” Twistunder interjected.
“Exercise-“ Human Friend Mack continued.
“You fulfilled twenty-percent more than required in the gym this morning.” Twistunder said.
“Companionship,” Human Friend Mack went on.
“Equally available on the couch,” Twistunder replied.
“It’s tradition Twist,” Human Friend Mack said with a sigh. “It’s just tradition.”
They reached a hillock and Human Friend Mack planted his walking stick in the ground to provide a third point of support and looked out over the iridescent purple plain. Twistunder took in the strange, low growing ecosystem for a moment and then left its contemplation to the human. Honestly the patterns that rippled over Human Friend Mack’s skin were more interesting to him. Granted he wasn’t a field biologist. Fortunately these ‘walks’ gave them both a chance to indulge their observational interests. Perhaps that was the point after all.