“The music is certainly,” First Cousin paused and considered how to describe the sounds blasting out from the speakers in the transport, “upbeat,” she finally concluded.
For several moments the only sound she got in reply was the meaty smack of Second Brother’s broad fingers against the control consul's surface.
“Nothing like some of Papi’s old salsa beats to keep the blood flowing on a cold day,” Second Brother said with a laugh as he began to alternate beating the consul with what the humans called ‘snapping’ their fingers.
First Cousin tilted her head to regard the massive human speculatively. She had long ago learned to ignore the horrific sound caused by humans rubbing their finger membranes together with such violence and easily focused on what Second Brother was saying instead. She had heard from her more medical cousins that mammals did up and down regulate their blood flow quite a bit more than was healthy for a Shatar. It was one of the many physiological factors that made them such fantastic assets when it came to gardening and harvesting the bounty of this system. Still, she wondered how they could maintain any trace of mental stability if their cardiovascular system could really be manipulated by the mere rhythm of a song.
“What are you looking at me like that for?” Second Brother said, glancing at her with his eyes the color of rich soil.
She pondered a moment over how something so, disturbingly alien could be so beautiful then set the thought firmly in its own row. Rather than translating her thoughts she lowered her voice and spoke in modified Mother. Second Brother tilted his head to the side and listened carefully. His nostrils flaring as if he could catch the scent of her words. She found herself thankful anew that her coworker at least comprehended Mother fluently, she couldn’t imagine articulating such thoughts in the flat, mammalian language.
“Well,” he replied slowly as he seemed to come to a conclusion about her question, “there is something about what you say. The beat, especially if it is produced with low tones, really does effect us. I know that some tribes used drums to stir up blood lust before battle, but how much was the drums and how much came from participating in the ritual I don’t know. Then again every other generation or so there seems to be a scare about how the new music is stimulating the younger generation too much. Then it turns out, once the egg-heads have harvested all the data, that no such thing is happening. Maybe it is just that guys like me get used to working faster with music, so just a Pavlovian association maybe?”
He rotated his head in a rough approximation of the Shatar gesture of uncertain conclusion and First Cousin gave a click of acceptance. Their transport gave a jolt as the wheels passed over another pothole and First Cousin pulled out her notebook to record the coordinates to report to the repair drone system. Second Brother fell silent while she did this. When she signaled she was finished the mammal heaved a massive sigh and tilted his head to indicate the sunbeams streaming down through the clouds and scattering through the surface of the glacial river.
“That’s something,” he murmured. “That’s really something, yeah?”
“It is a terrifying beauty,” First Cousin said in a somber tone. “Lifeless power scattered frozen mandibles of death. The ambient temperature alone can damage even the strongest membranes.”
Second Brother angled his eyes at her and the small muscles in his face contorted his visage into asymmetry.
“The cold ain’t so bad. We get some life out of it,” he said. “That’s why we’re here after all.”
First Cousin spread her antenna in a gesture of dismissal.
“This planet is,” she paused and mulled over her words, “a death trap, nearly sterile, entirely wild, were it not for the super nutrients harvested by the Edwardsilite andrillest we would never consider stringing even these partial gardens. I can find no beauty in such sterility.”
Second Brother glance at her speculatively.
“Do you think diamonds are pretty?” he asked suddenly.
“Diamonds,” she clicked thoughtfully, “That is carbon in a matrix correct? It looks something like ice I think. I cannot say I have ever given it much thought but I cannot say that I derive any pleasure from looking at them.”
Second Brother grunted and tilted his head in acknowledgment of her response. The transport rounded a corner and they began to approach their next harvest site. First Cousin began to reapply the spray insulation to her hands and arms. The doors opened and they stepped out onto the icy surface of the glacial river. First Cousin turned on her imager and scanned the surface below them carefully.
“No rifts in site!” Second Brother shouted from the other side of the transport. “Solid ice four meters down.”
It took First Cousin a few more moments to achieve the same result and she repeated his statements. The safety check done Second Brother activated his boots and began the altered falling motion that humans called skating. First Cousin moved out with delicate steps, feeling roundly grateful for the ice gripping toe socks Second Father had sent her in the last care package. She stepped out into the center of the abnormally smooth circle of ice and activated the inflatable raft before stepping onto it. She pulled the atmospheric reader out of her carry pack and began spinning it on it’s tether to collect super local atmospheric information before the orbital tether activated and redirected the thermal gradient. The cracking sounds of ice and the rattling of polymer ship chains came from one side.
“First tether cleared,” Second Brother called out.
“First tether cleared,” First Cousin replied absently.
Second Brother continued his circle of the harvest site announcing each of the three tethers with First Cousin responding. When he was done he announced he was activating the orbital tether. She felt the gravitational flux and watched the temperature rise on the atmospheric reader. Within moments the ice beneath her began to liquefy and the ice around the circle began to creak and groan as the energy was drained from it and transferred to the circle. The orbital tether soon caused the water to dome upwards at the center, even as its decreasing volume caused the edge of the pool to drop below the surrounding ice, revealing the polymer thermodynamic ring that fenced this little psudo-garden. Second Brother was idly gliding sideways around the ring, his hands behind his back, his eyes on the surface of the ice, presumably preforming a redundant scan of the ice’s integrity.
First Cousin noted the soft glow of the first body in the water and braced herself in her flotation device. The water suddenly surged upward as the melting effect reached the lower surface of the ice-shelf. The gentle gravitational pull of the orbital tether pulled the bodies to the top of the dome and First Cousin reached into the super cold water, held in a liquid state at just below it’s freezing state by the ring, and pulled out the body with the brightest glow. She clicked softly as she recorded it’s measurements and tossed it onto the bottom of the flotation device.
The harvest went smoothly and she found an exceptionally large specimen with an odd growth on the base. First Cousin clicked with pleasure and put it in an isolated carry container to keep it alive for potential up-breeding and to show to Second Brother. He always seemed to like gloating over the larger individuals with her. She imagined his wide grin as he prodded it with one wide finger then announced to the world in general that ‘she was a beaut’. Some of the rare behavioral moments that she could recognize as properly fatherly in the human males.
She called out when she was finished and Second Brother released the orbital tether. Slowly, gradually the manipulated gravity disengaged as the ring bled the heat energy out of the liquid water on the level of the base of the ice shelf, forming a thin layer to catch the gently falling organisms. First Cousin watched the process with her scanner for just long enough to be sure the majority of the Edwardsilite andrillest were once more properly settled in the bottom layer. Technically they could burrow through the entire thickness of the ice if they were too high when it froze, or swim back up if they dropped to far, but when working with species pre-domestication it was never good to stress them if you could prevent it.
“Population resettled,” she called out.
“Re securing tethers,” Second Brother responded.
He had completed that task and was waiting by the side of the rapidly, and evenly, freezing pool to help her from one ice surface to another. She gladly accepted the stable grip, despite the constant shifting of his feet, of his gloved hands as she had to squat down to gather up the flotation device that now doubled as a carrying satchel.
“The thermal transfer is never perfect,” she observed with a sigh.
“Close enough for government work,” he said with a grunt as he handed her up into the cab of the transport.
He swung himself in and they began to move towards the next site as First Cousin quickly peeled the insulation off of her hands and began transferring the harvest to the cooler.
“I found a particularly large specimen today!” she announced, holding out the largest individual.
To her disappointment Second Brother only glanced at it and nodded in a human gesture of polite notice.
“Big un’,” he said before turning his eyes towards the next site.
First Cousin felt her frill droop a bit, but she noted that he still had his gloves on and assumed he didn’t want to get them wetter than they were. She set the specimen down for further prodding opportunities and continued her work. She was just tossing a rather small specimen into the cooler when the wet carry case emitted a hissing noise and partly inflated. First Cousin clicked in annoyance.
“Second Brother calibrate the inflation rate again please,” she requested.
“It’ll be fine,” Second Brother said shifting his gloved hands uneasily.
First Cousin nearly dropped the specimen she was holding in shock. Second Brother had never refused a task in her memory. Still, he was a Second Brother. She put a firm note in her voice.
“It is preventing me from finishing my task and I don’t have the digital strength to calibrate it myself,” she said. “Unless you want these creatures flopping around the cab for the rest of the drive you need to recalibrate the inflation.”
“I’ll get around to it,” the human said glancing to the side in a blatant attempt to avoid her gaze. “Haven’t taken off my gloves yet.”
First Cousin realized that it was a very human, a very guilty gesture and something stirred uneasily in her memory. She didn’t remember seeing Second Brother put on his gloves before they
“Second Brother Hernandez,” she said, working to summon the voice of her First Sister, “why haven’t you taken off your gloves yet?”
Second Brother squirmed in his seat. Some brotherly reactions were universal after all.
“Promise you won’t freak out?” he asked, apparently of his reflection in the window.
“Why do you think I would?” she rejoined.
“You always freak out when this happens,” he muttered, “and it’s really no big deal for a human.”
“Second Brother,” First Cousin summoned Third Aunt’s voice now, “take off our gloves.”
Second Brother growled in protest but slowly peeled off his gloves.
“You promised you wouldn’t freak out!” Second Brother pointed out.
First Cousin stared in horror at the smears and chunks, solid chunks, of rusty red blood that covered his hands.
“It looks worse than it is,” Second Brother was saying. “The gloves smeared it around is all. The chains just took a little skin off my knuckles-”
“Get out the first aid kit,” First Cousin said in brisk Mother as she shook out her frill.
“Now that my gloves are off I’ll just calibrate,” Second Brother started reaching for the partly inflated case.
“First aid kit,” First Cousin snapped. “Now.”
She pondered pointing out that she had not in fact promised she wouldn’t freak out, but decided against it.
"Humans are Weird: I Have the Data"
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
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