“Thank you for the reassurance,” Cuddlesround said in a hollow tone.
The Undulate reached out an appendage absently and patted the inspector’s elbow. The rest of his appendages were writhing in on themselves in a display of guilt and distress that one didn’t need to be an expert in xeno-kenesethetics to interpret. It turned out that ‘writhing’ was a pretty universal experience.
“Really,” Medical Inspector Gregory murmured gently, reaching out to stroke the Undulate, “it would have been difficult for a human doctor to diagnose the trouble when the patient was actively hiding it.”
“But that is the flow!” Cuddlesround burst out, remembering to put sounds of stress in his voices this time. “My species are hardly strangers to the idea of working through injuries! Even to the point of self harm. That is why the inspection of our fellows is so important to us!”
Cuddlesround cut off and just writhes in the bottom of the small depression full of room temperature water that formed his desk space and Gregory fought the urge to look away. Every psyche briefing he had stated that Undulates did not do, “giving them privacy”. Finally the chief researcher for the expedition gathered enough self control to continue speaking.
“I know I can’t be held responsible for failing to diagnose an alien injury,” Cuddlesround admitted, adding resignation to his voice. “Despite being a biologist I know very little about mammalian biology, save where you make such excellent hosts for symbiotes, so much free space in you, why I bet you could host multiple eukaryotic species at once! There is, in particular a worm-ah but I see I am distressing you. We must stay in the main stream of the conversation, of course.”
Gregory didn’t think his face had given away the cringing horror at the turn the conversation had taken. It must have been his pheromones he mused as Cuddlesround went on.
“My current is this,” Cuddlesround was saying. “Internal injuries are so odd, difficult to diagnose when your tissues are properly orders, impossible to diagnose when they are separated into discrete ‘organs’. I know I could never have hopped to tell that Human Friend Michael had sustained damage to…”
Cuddlesround drifted off and lifted up his longest appendage to Medical Inspector Gregory. Gregory caught his drift and glanced down at his notes.
“The connective tissue, called ligaments, anchoring certain muscle groups to his pelvis,” Medical Inspector Gregory supplied.
“To his ligaments,” Cuddlesround said, “from simply slipping in the mud. In fact, though I witnessed the fall that caused the damage, I did not recognize that such a fall, one he even maintained control over could damage his tissues.”
Cuddlesround contracted tightly and then visibly forced himself to flex out and relax in a decent approximation of a sigh for a species with no lungs.
“No,” Cuddlesround said in a glum tone, “I could not have diagnosed him, but he was in pain for months before the damage accumulated to the point he could no longer walk without visible pain.”
Cuddlesround stopped talking here and Medical Inspector Gregory realized after a long pause that the Undulate had finished his thought and was waiting for a reply.
“Then what do you feel so guilty about?” Medical Inspector Gregory asked. “Ranger Michael slipped on the mud, sprained his butt, and didn’t tell anyone. That is hardly your responsibility.”
“Oh but it is!” Cuddlesround insisted. “I failed to set the flow of our group down the proper currents! If I had Human Friend Michael would have let us know about his injury soon enough to treat it properly.”
Medical Inspector Gregory couldn’t help letting out a skeptical noise at that and apparently Cuddlesround had enough experience with humans to translate it.
“What do you find issue with in my statement Medical Inspector Gregory?” Cuddlesround asked.
“I sincerely doubt that you could have done anything that would make it more likely for a human to have reported an injury,” Gregory said. “From the sound of this,” he held up the report. “The pain was only sporadic at first. I doubt that Ranger Michael was deliberately hiding anything from you. More likely he just genuinely didn’t consider it an issue at first, and there is only so much you can do before you start violating human privacy boundaries.”
Cuddlesround gave a skeptical sound of his own and Gregory smiled ruefully down at the Undulate.
“Look,” Gregory said. “From our perspective this is a matter of Ranger Michael’s training. However if you would like I can offer you and the other undulates on base information on how to coax injury information out of humans in casual conversation without passing those boundaries.”
“Yes!” Cuddlesround exclaimed, lifting his leading end out of the water entirely. “Teach us that.”
“Well,” Gregory said with a nod, “I have a whole class on it but the main idea is tit-for-tat.”
“You mean I would have to offer up an injury of my own?” Cuddlesround asked.
“You get the basic idea,” Gregory said hastily, the image of the earnest Undulate deliberately spraining something in the interest of cross-species communication popping into his head, “but it is a story of an injury you need to offer up, and the more of you telling stories the more likely the human is to offer up a story of their own.”
“That’s a natural flow,” the Undulate observed.
“Yeah,” Gregory said with a laugh, “even before I specialized in the medical field it seemed like every conversation I had with my friends ended up turning to what traumatic injuries we had gotten. You just have to remember to direct the conversation to current injuries without making it obvious.”
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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 165 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.