Third Sister reminded herself to keep close watch on the human despite the fact that she couldn’t see his expressive face. Granted, it was made easier by the fact that she knew exactly where he was and what he was doing, but Second Brother George had already displayed a very human knack for causing chaos in the short weeks he had been staying in their hive. The wanderer was unfailingly cheerful and polite, but his impulse control was proving to be rather underdeveloped. The moment he had heard that they needed another pilot he had quite literally jumped at the chance to join the elder sisters in their work and had all but insisted that he be given the oldest walker with it’s demand for experience and attention.
The solar equinox was nearing it’s zenith and Third Sister was keeping an antenna to the breeze as the temperature crept up towards the level where her protective wax coating would no longer be useful. The dense atmosphere and the intra-solar dust clouds meant that the synthetic wax would fully protect her outer membrane from the muted radiation of the distant suns on this world, as long as it was still semi-solid. She drew in a deep breath and flexed her frill out as she braced her four feet on the crest of the vineyard hill. Below her a trio of four-legged utility vehicles crept down the access pathways between the rows of what the humans called vines. To one side a few sparse trees stood, but they cast no shadow in the light of the twin suns and did nothing to alleviate the nervousness that crept up her membrane.
She had been born on this world and had never known, nor needed, the protection of a full canopy. Even the thin covering that her Fathers’ coaxed over the main nursery lines wasn’t strictly necessary. Nevertheless the genetic need to feel that protective shield over her, or at least to know it was near still scratched at her awareness like a particularly irritating boring parasite. She tilted her head to one side, centering her vision on the central utility vehicle using the necessary mindfulness her task required to drive out the mental need. It’s extended arms reached out halfway over the rows, as did the arms of the other two. Flexible bands hung down from the arms, striking the scraggly Earth origin vines and sending a carefully calculated tremor down the woody tissue and out through the branches.
The same heavy atmosphere that meant her membrane didn’t crisp in the solar radiation also slowed the winds in some way that the Central University’s best meteorologists couldn’t quite explain. The lack of a proper night cycle also added to the lack of wind compared to most other habitable planets. When it had become clear that this strange atmospheric inertia would mean that the traditional Shatar vines would not be able to thrive Third Sister’s ancestors had not be entirely unprepared. They Understood the need for wind to strengthen woody tissue. However they had grossly undercalculated the infrastructure costs of compensating for that inertia. The solution that had arisen out of many hungry generations of trial and error was the strikers. Unable to depend on airflow most cultivated plants could simply be shaken into health. The newly arrived Earth origin plants were no exception.
Third Sister angled her triangular head to look at the notes in her hands. The would need to run another five rounds with each utility vehicle. She clicked her mandibles in frustration as her fingers twitched with the desire to take the controls of the walkers herself. Every year since she had been tall enough to reach the controls she had piloted one of the machines under the mindful supervision of Third Mother. However with First Grandmother and First Grandfather leaving to see what trading might be done in the next sector Third Mother’s time was better spent taking over their duties, leaving an empty supervisory niche at the top of the vineyards.
The first hint that something wasn’t quite right was the sound of poorly aligned gears grinding. Third Sister snapped her head up and splayed her antennas. That the sound might be coming from some other walker was nearly impossible so she centered her vision on Second Brother George’s machine without hesitation, but it was only nearly impossible so she kept her antenna splayed just in case some other aging machine, not being driven by a pilot many times too large had decided to break down. However her first speculation proved right as the striking arms flailed a moment and then snapped up and the walker gave one protesting leap before tearing off down the hill at an accelerating lope. Third Sister felt panic freeze her feet to the ground. Fear for the human’s life and limbs mingled with frantic calculations of how much damage he was going to do the rows below him, moving at that speed. She did not see how he could possibly manage the quarter circle turn that ended at the next section of rows.
Then he did. Third Sister watched in stunned and relived shock as the walker sprang and twisted to the side, somehow avoiding crashing into the staggered rows, tipping over, or even losing speed from its headlong race down the hill. Second Brother George must have maintained some level on control even as the walker gained speed. The walker and its human pilot continued, somehow managing to pull off the tight turns at each point and then gradually slowed to a stop headed up the opposite slope. Seemingly having regained control Second Brother George turned the walker and trotted it back up the hill Third Sister was on. He turned the walker and re-extended the striking arms before catching up to the others and matching their pace once more.
Third Sister remained frozen a moment longer and then scrambled over to her personal transport. The tracks clattered to life and carried her quickly to the turn point at the bottom of the hill ahead of the walkers. She jumped out and waved her arms in a signal for the human pilot to leave the cockpit of the walker. However Second Brother George only opened the door and twisted he fleshy face to expose his teeth in a friendly gesture.
“What’s up Sis?” He called out.
“What happened up the hill?” she demanded.
“What happened where?” he asked, his face wrinkling in confusion.
“You lost control of the walker speed!” Third Sister snapped. “You almost rolled the machine four times!”
“Oh that!” Second Brother George said, his face smoothing. “Yeah, I got the gear shifts mixed up again and accidentally put her in flatland sprint mode. Once she was going fast I figured there was no way to bring her under control until I had her going up the other side.”
“You almost rolled it!” Second Sister pressed.
“Almost!” Second Brother George called out with a cheerful wave. “It’s a lovely word. See you on the flip side.”
With that he closed the door and moved his walker to start back up the hill.
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What does it mean when your human friend says “Watch This?”? Why does this simple phrase seem to terrify any alien that has first appendage experience with humans? #HFY #HumansAreWeird #HumansAreSpaceOrcs #EarthIsADeathWorld #EarthIsSpaceAustralia
Hey! The books are moving well on Amazon and now have 300 reviews and ratings! If you bought the book and enjoyed it, it would really help me out if you leave a quick star rating on Amazon. A review would be great but just stars would be a huge boost *****!
QUICK NOTE: RE: everyone who asked. The book is avaliable in Amazon regions US-UK-DE-FR-ES-IT-NL-JP-BR-CA-MX-AU-IN. HOWEVER The above link only takes you to the US Amazon site. The one indicated by the .com ending. If it says "not avaliable in your country" that just means that you need to click over to your Amazon region.
Of course if you want a signed first edition you can email me at the email on my website and I can ship you a signed Author copy of the first edition for the same price as the crowdfunding campaign $35 domestic and $60 overseas. I'll do that until I run out of extra books.