“You seem particularly cheerful Ranger Dodge,” Twistunder commented as the human strode up to the jeep.
“That I am Twist buddy. That I am,” Survey Core Ranger Mack Dodge confirmed as his long, jointed limb lifted with a terrifying ease to toss his backpack into the vehicle.
Twistunder rotated his body, appendages spread out as far as they could go in what humans called his ‘wet mop phase’. The last, lingering rays of sunlight turned his skin a dark amber that seemed to meld into the green of the jeep’s hood. Mack was taking his time to organize their tools in the cargo area, so Twistunder felt comfortable lingering in the sunlight.
“What has pleased you so much?” Twistunder asked after a moment.
Mack hummed over the netting he was securing over the gear.
“Well,” Mack finally said, “you know that the inspector is here?”
“Oh yes!” Twistunder replied as he inched across the hood, following the sunlight. “Did you interact with him?”
“Yep,” Mack replied. “He swung by in one of those flyers, the insulated little bio-dome ones.”
Twistunder could have laughed derisively if he had felt like sharing his contempt of the soft-appendaged bureaucrat with his friend, but as close as he and Ranger Dodge were one didn’t flush your fetid algae around friends. So Twistunder only gave an interrogative hum.
“Anyway,” Mack continued as the last beams began to slip off the side of the jeep and Twistunder gave up on his bathing. “He was watching me hammer in the probe spikes and complimented me on my handiness.”
Twistunder climbed over the windshield and dropped down into the driver’s seat. He secured the prospective restraint around him and secured the steering wheel with his primary gripping appendages and held out his secondary appendage expectantly.
“Nice try Twist,” Mack said as he opened the driver’s door. “Move it.”
Twistunder gripped the buckle of the restraints and a brief scuffle ensued. Mack tried first tried to simply lift him out of the seat by force and Twistunder couldn’t resist humming in amusement when Mack gave a grunt of frustration. Humans might be able to drive ten centimeter long spikes into solid rock but no species beat an Undulate for gripping power when they didn’t want to give up their place.
“Come on Twist,” Mack demanded. “We’ve been over this. I am not letting you drive.”
“I passed the test,” Twistunder said in his most logical tone. “I am certified.”
“You passed the written test,” Mack snapped. “Your species is not meant to hurtle along at driving speeds.”
“And yours is?” Twistunder asked. He lifted one gripping appendage to tap the controls. “Correct me if I am wrong, but this speed indicator goes much higher than –what is your maximum running speed again?”
“Faster than yours!” Mack said.
He gave up pulling and flattened his hand against the seat back, sliding it down until he gripped the base of the restraint. Twistunder divined his plan and decided that cheating was in order. He freed about a quarter of his appendages from the seat, at which Mack gave a cry of triumph, and dug them into the human’s ribcage and wiggled. Mack howled in frustration but somehow continued to wedge Twistunder off the seat.
“You are developing your resistance to tickling,” Twistunder observed as Mack shoved him over into the passenger seat.
“Not that I have much choice in the matter,” Mack muttered as they fought one final tugging war over the seatbelt. “You little bugger.”
“I do wish to develop this skill,” Twistunder pointed out as he finally buckled himself into the seat. “And your charter does call for exchanging information freely.”
“It also calls for not getting people killed,” Mack replied as he started the engine.
“It can’t be more complex than flying a glider,” Twistunder pointed out.
“They have a max speed of what,” Mack asked, “ten or fifteen?”
“So the inspector complimented you?” Twistunder asked.
Mack shot his a sideways glance at the change in topic but continued driving.
“My handiness,” Mack said, and a proud smile replaced his irritated look.
Twistunder folded his appendages under himself thoughtfully. “You refer of course to the fact that you are almost as proficient in tasks with both sides of your appendages?”
“Yup,” Mack replied, grinning wide enough to show his teeth now.
“You are a decorated Survey Core Ranger Friend Mack Dodge,” Twistunder said carefully.
“Yeah?” Mack replied.
“That means you have achieved honor in the disciplines of both body and mind at the highest level,”” Twistunder went on, proud to remember the humans separated the two, such a strange concept.
“And so?” Mack asked.
“Why are you so pleased over recognition that your appendages all function properly?” Twistunder asked. “And why did the inspector think to compliment that?”
“It might be a little thing,” Mack said with a shrug. “But I worked hard to bring Lefty up to par and I’m proud of it. Why wouldn’t he compliment it?”
“Did you injure your left appendages seriously?” Twistunder asked, raising a few sensory rich appendages to examine his friend.
“What?” Mack frowned. “No I-oh right, you guys don’t go in for bi-lateral symmetry so you don’t get bi-lateral asymmetry. No, it’s unusual for humans to be able to use both hands equally. We have a dominant hand and a non-dominant hand.”
“Ah,” Twistunder replied. “That is interesting. I suppose the inspector was briefed on this and was showing off his knowledge of human anatomy.”
“Could be,” Mack replied.
“Another question?” Twistunder asked.
“Shoot bud,” Mack said.
“Do you name all of your appendages?” Twistunder asked.
Uproarious laugher was his only reply.